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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders might seem like they only attract supporters from far opposite ends of the political spectrum. But their rhetoric on the road shows they’re tapping into some of the same anxieties voters share about the economy.
Their basic message: Their political opponents side with greedy banks, specifically Goldman Sachs.
PolitiFact heard a clear demonstration of this commonality during our trip around Iowa. Whether it was Sanders in Underwood on Tuesday or Trump in Norwalk on Wednesday, both candidates maintained they would be a more credible enemy to Goldman Sachs, painted as the epitome of a villainous financial institution, than their lead rivals in the Iowa caucuses.
Trump criticized Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, whose wife is a Goldman Sachs executive, for taking out a loan of up to $500,000 to fund his 2012 Senate campaign. In what Cruz said was a paperwork error, he didn’t put the loan on his Senate campaign financial filings. Trump, however, said Cruz left out the loan on purpose.
"He didn’t do it purposely because what he wanted to do is say, ‘I will protect you from Goldman Sachs, I will protect you from CitiBank… and I’m going to protect you from these banks.’ And then he’s borrowing from the banks. And, by the way, he’s got personal guarantees, and he’s got low-interest loans, all low-interest. And now he’s going to go after Goldman Sachs? It doesn’t work that way. Goldman Sachs owns him. Remember that, folks: They own him."
Unlike Cruz, Trump said, he is in no way beholden to big money (other than his own money, of course) because he is mostly self-financing his own campaign.
"I have turned down so much money that I actually feel foolish," he said. "My whole life it’s been take, take, right? I was greedy — I take, I take. Now I’m going to be greedy for the United States. I’m going to take the United States."
Sanders had much more to say about Goldman Sachs than Trump, mostly protesting the fact that the government did not prosecute the firm’s executives for their role in causing the subprime mortgage crisis. But he circled his comments around to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has received campaign donations and speaking fees from Goldman Sachs. CEO Lloyd Blankfein also has a close relationship with Clinton.
"Goldman Sachs is part of the revolving door of politics of Washington. You know what that means? That means you could have people sitting, helping large corporations on Wall Street, leaving Wall Street, getting a job in government, and going back to Wall Street. It’s a revolving door. It’s the way big money interests get voted into public policy.
"Over the last several decades, Goldman Sachs, a corrupt major financial institution, has had two secretaries of the treasury, one in a Democratic administration, one in a Republican administration. That is what power in America is about. That is what a rigged economy is about. A huge and powerful financial institution functions illegally, destroys the economy, nobody gets charged with anything. The same institution influences public policy. The same institution influences public policy at the highest level by providing the government under Democrats and Republicans with secretaries of the treasury….
"And then on top of all of that, the same financial institution provides huge amounts of money in campaign contributions and in speaking fees to unnamed candidates. That is what a corrupt system is about."
Goldman Sachs has contributed almost $800,000 to the 2016 election so far, according to Politico and the Center for Responsive Politics. Company members have given about $43,600 to Cruz and $170,000 to Clinton (including money donated to affiliated political action committees). They have also given to Florida Republicans former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio.
Not on the list: Sanders and Trump.
Whether this will influence Iowa caucus-goers Feb. 1 remains to be seen.
Politico, "Goldman Sachs contributions surge despite attacks," Jan. 20, 2016
Politico, "The Goldman Sachs primary," March 2, 2015
PolitiFact, "Meme says Hillary Clinton's top donors are banks and corporations, Bernie Sanders' are labor unions," July 7, 2015
PolitiFact Texas, "Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton -- and Goldman Sachs?" Jan. 19, 2016