Donald Trump has made no secret of his desire to win over disaffected Bernie Sanders voters who have difficulty stomaching the idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency. To do so, he has tried to paint her as a pawn controlled by Wall Street donors while attempting to position himself as a untainted populist. On Monday, this resulted in the weird spectacle of Republicans including a plank in their party platform calling for the breakup of large financial institutions like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan. The only obvious purpose of this otherwise philosophically aberrant decision was to place Trump somewhere to the left of Clinton on financial reform. “We believe that the Obama-Clinton years have passed legislation that has been favorable to the big banks,” Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort told reporters, “which is one of the reason why you see all of the Wall Street money going to her.”
This is both absurd and savvy. Trump is no anti-bank crusader; quite to the contrary, he has promised to dismantle most of the Wall Street reforms passed under the Dodd-Frank Act while drastically slashing taxes for billionaires. But thanks to her paid (and still unreleased) speeches at Goldman Sachs, her husband’s role in banking deregulation, and the fact that Clinton has done a fair bit of fundraising on Wall Street, many on the left still can’t shake the feeling that Clinton has been bought and paid for by the banking industry. One can imagine Trump’s act peeling off at least a handful of resentful Sanders fans.
On Tuesday, though, Fortune brings us some additional news that, if true, should make a complete mockery of those efforts. According to the magazine, “Trump has told prospective donors that, if elected president, he plans to nominate former Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin for U.S. Treasury Secretary.” Currently, Mnuchin is a hedge fund CEO, as well as Trump’s chief fundraiser.
Promising to pick a Wall Street banker whom you have charged with the task of raising money for your campaign from other Wall Street bankers to head the Treasury Department may be the single most straightforward way a presidential candidate could auction himself off to the financial services sector. Presumably, Fortune’s source, hedge funder manager and Trump fundraiser Anthony Scaramucci, is trying to reassure his fellow financiers that they need not take Monday’s platform news too seriously. Indirectly, he’s telling Sanders diehards the same.
Of course, some believe Clinton herself might be eyeing a Goldman alum for Treasury Secretary—namely, her campaign’s chief financial officer, Gary Gensler. Moreover, Gensler played his own role in the deregulatory mania of the 1990s as an official at the department. But the differences are two-fold. First, Gensler manages the Clinton campaign’s money but doesn’t raise it. Second, bankers hate him. In 2009 Gensler went to work for the Obama administration as head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, where “he surprisingly became the regulator Wall Street feared most in the wake of the financial crisis,” as Reuters put it. He pushed hard for strict rules about swaps trading, and was extremely aggressive about cranking out regs his agency was required to write up under Dodd-Frank. The man watched Wall Street burst into flames thanks to its own fecklessness and converted into a regulatory crusader.
But yeah, sure, Clinton’s the pawn.