Hillary Clinton’s campaign held a conference call Thursday with reporters to deride Bernie Sanders for airing an ad that criticized Wall Street firms and the politicians who accept their donations. Though the ad did not mention Clinton by name, the conference call featured her top strategist Joel Benenson portraying the spot as an inappropriate attack on Clinton, whose 2016 campaign has accepted $5.7 million from executives in the financial industry.
On the call, Benenson accused Sanders of going negative, asserting the U.S. senator from Vermont had “decided to do something that he had said so proudly he would never do.” What the Clinton campaign did not say when announcing the call is that Benenson’s firm not only consults for Clinton — it also lists as clients the kind of Wall Street banks that Sanders’ ad assails, as the Intercept’s Lee Fang pointed out.
Joel Benenson, Clinton strategist about to talk to reporters re that Wall St ad, consults for Bank of America https://t.co/NBqF84dWnW
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) January 14, 2016
According to its website, the Benenson Strategy Group lists Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase among its clients. In a 2012 press release, Benenson listed JPMorgan Chase — whose executives are collectively among Clinton’s top 2016 donors — as an example of how the firm “has guided many Fortune 500 companies and leading advocacy groups through critical strategic and communication challenges.” The section of Benenson’s website listing the banks as clients says the firm is focused on “delivering strategies corporations need to stay ahead of the curve.” Other clients listed include McDonald's, Pfizer and Walmart — the last of which once had Hillary Clinton on its board of directors when she was first lady of Arkansas.
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Just below the listing of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, Benenson’s firm lists Clinton’s campaign, the Obama campaign and top Democratic Party groups as clients. Those clients are listed under a section in which Benenson’s firm says it works on “advising leaders who shape the world.”
During Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 campaign, she faced criticism for having Mark Penn as her top adviser, while his public relations firm represented tobacco, oil, pharmaceutical and gaming companies. His company also instructed clients on how to defeat union-organizing drives.