The release of the Panama Papers, a series of over 11.5 million confidential documents uncovering the involvement of the world’s wealthy in tax evasion via unlisted offshore account, has induced global backlash for those named in the documents. While reporting has not yet fully commenced and more names are scheduled to be released in early May, a handful of Americans with close ties to political establishments have already been named. This comes in the middle of an election year and in a cycle where issues such as tax evasion and income inequality have been discussed at large, putting those specific debates back into the spotlight and leaving presidential candidates, most notably, Hillary Clinton, to defend their varying positions on the issues, and in the former Secretary of State’s case, even her innocence.
The names of two of Clinton’s associates, one an individual Georgian billionaire and the other the largest bank in Russia, were released in the Panama Papers, effectively linking her to what is now being called the largest document leak in history. Both entities have had longtime connections with Clinton, influencing her politics through lobbying efforts as part of what The Federalist calls her “crony deals”. And while Clinton herself has not been named in the documents as of yet, the connections have been enough to raise a few eyebrows in Washington. But even more than bringing another potential Clinton scandal to light, I think they underscore a core component of Clinton’s campaign and her political leanings, which seem to largely favor the wealthiest of Americans. This further highlights the irony behind the public appearance she is trying so hard to avoid.
Clinton’s direct involvement with the global elite, especially in terms of political influence, is now undeniable due to the Panama Papers. Her connections with wealthy executives has previously been discussed, and I am far from claiming that they are wrong in and of themselves, but it can now be deduced through these connections that her political career is built on the very simple ideology that money is power, which is a mantra her campaign has exhausted various efforts to distance itself from. This is espcially true when faced with the anti-corporation sentiments of her rival Sanders’ campaign. Clinton’s association with these political “big dogs” (by virtue of the size of their wallets) constructs the very image she is trying to fight — the image of a power-hungry politician with a fickle mentality catering to whosoever pays the best.
Already facing attacks from Sanders over her display of bias towards groups like Wall Street executives, Clinton’s stance on the financial atmosphere of the United States is now also under heavy denunciation as she has made calls for income equality and fair distribution of wealth, but is evidently a member of an exclusive alliance of which the other members are the world’s richest individuals. The information in the Panama Papers supports the notion that her allies are not at all demographically similar to those affected by the issues she is advocating for, thus undermining her positions on such issues altogether. Now, a few weeks away from the second release of information from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Clinton is battling not only her potential naming as a key player in the illegal activity in Panama, but also the image of a disillusioned politician spewing whatever will earn her votes while attempting to keep her shady backroom dealings secret. Whichever way the new wave of information leads, one thing is true: the Panama Papers have given weight to some of the accusations the Sanders camp has thrown Clinton’s way. In order to gain back the political clout it cost her, she must now actively make a show of demonstrating where her loyalties lie in an attempt to challenge that condemning rhetoric and convince unimpressed Democrats that she is not an establishment candidate that can be bought. And who said politics wasn’t eventful?