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Clinton Speaks To 30th Anniversary Gala Of EMILY's List

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Clinton Speaks To 30th Anniversary Gala Of EMILY's List

Politics

Clinton Speaks To 30th Anniversary Gala Of EMILY's List

Clinton Speaks To 30th Anniversary Gala Of EMILY's List

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Former Secretary of State and likely future presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke to a large group of female political donors Tuesday night in Washington, D.C.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Hillary Clinton spoke to supporters last night at the 30th anniversary of EMILY's List. That group was founded with the goal of electing female pro-choice candidates. Clinton, herself, is not a candidate, not officially anyway, though she's widely expected to make a second run for president. NPR's Mara Liasson was at the EMILY's List gathering and joins us now to talk about it. Good morning.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And I gather Clinton was greeted like a rock star. Not a big surprise, but tell us what she said last night.

LIASSON: Not a big surprise. EMILY's List is, as you said, a political group that supports female candidates. It's a huge supporter of Mrs. Clinton's. And her talk last night was an embryonic stump speech, lots of her signature themes - economic fairness, empowerment for women and girls. Here's a little bit of what she said.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

HILLARY CLINTON: I know there are still some people who roll their eyes when I or others say that women's issues are America's issues, but they're just going to have to get used to it. I'm going to beat this drum as long and loud as it takes to be part of the chorus that so many of you have been in for so many years.

LIASSON: Now, this is a theme that she's focusing on a lot more than she did in 2008. She's been doing a lot of these events. Last week, she was at a conference for women in Silicon Valley. Tonight, she's going to be talking at the Clinton Foundation Gala in New York. Next week, she'll be at a women's empowerment event at the United Nations. And she does get a rock-star reception at these events, and I'm sure it was a welcome contrast to the press coverage she's been getting for the last two weeks.

MONTAGNE: This week, in particular, has not been an easy one. First, she's facing questions about using her personal email account rather than an official government one during the time that she was secretary of state. Tell us about that.

LIASSON: Well she used a private email account exclusively while at the State Department. Now, other secretaries of state have done this. There's no prohibition against it. But what didn't happen until recently is that she didn't routinely turn over her emails to be archived as government records rules require. She apparently has done that now. Her spokesman said she's turned over 55,000 pages of emails. But this, of course, reinforces the old storyline about the Clintons - they're secretive, they're not transparent. Jeb Bush, who is widely expected to run for president, released his emails from when he was the governor of Florida, and he tweeted yesterday, quote, "transparency matters." So this is going to be an issue. It'll be brought up by the Republican candidates and there will be probably more investigations about it from the Republican Congress.

MONTAGNE: And besides the email story, there are questions about the Clinton Foundation - which you just mentioned a moment ago - whether that foundation violated an ethics agreement by accepting donations from foreign governments.

LIASSON: That's right. The Clintons' family foundation took money from foreign governments while she was secretary of state. Now, most of them were ongoing commitments that had been made before she joined the Obama administration, but one donation - $500,000 from the government of Algeria for Haitian earthquake relief - was made during her tenure. And this has struck many people as a conflict of interest and, again, it revived all the old Clinton tropes - the rules don't apply to them, they're blind to appearances of impropriety, conflict of interest, it looks like pay-to-play, and it reminded people of the fundraising scandals of the 1990s.

MONTAGNE: And, Mara, does all this add up to anything when looking at a likely Clinton presidential run?

LIASSON: Well, it's not a huge problem, but it is a problem, and it shows that she probably needs a campaign structure. She needs people in place who can help her avoid problems like this and or handle them more aggressively when they do arise. I'm told she is considering starting an exploratory committee soon, maybe next month. That would be a structure so she can raise money, hire people. She is lining up staff. And I'm told she's very far along in developing the rationale for her candidacy, the answers to the questions, why her? Why now? And also fleshing out what she wants to do, the policies that will back up those questions. The question is, will the exploratory committee be a low-key announcement, or does she come out fully formed with big speeches right away or wait till summer? All that is to be determined, but the Clinton campaign, I think, with all of its excitement for women and with all the messes that historically have accompanied the Clintons, is already underway.

MONTAGNE: All right. NPR's Mara Liasson, thanks very much.

LIASSON: Thank you.

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