Goldman Sachs (gs) CEO Lloyd Blankfein won't say who he is backing for president. The reason: He thinks his support could be toxic.
In a CNBC interview this morning, Blankfein, who has been a Hillary Clinton supporter in the past, was asked if he is again supporting the Democratic frontrunner, who narrowly won Iowa. Blankfein dodged the question.
"I don't want to help or hurt anybody by giving them my endorsement," he said.
Blankfein supported Clinton for president in 2008 when she lost the nomination to Barack Obama. And he has widely been reported as helping Clinton raise money for her current campaign. So it seemed odd that he wasn't willing to publicly say he is backing her.
The reason could be that Blankfein thinks his endorsement could be perceived as a black mark for Clinton. Her neck-and-neck rival Bernie Sanders has made Wall Street greed and breaking up the big banks a key point of his campaign. And he's said that Clinton is too close to Wall Street to reign in the influence of the financial sector. Last week, Sanders' campaign ran an ad saying that Wall Street firms are buying off politicians. The spot focused on Goldman Sachs, which has paid Clinton lucrative speaking fees in the past.
So one explanation for Blankfein's Clinton dodge is because he may think an on-camera endorsement of Clinton could be fodder for Sanders' next commercial. Nonetheless, according to OpenSecrets.org, Blankfein has yet to make a direct contribution to Clinton's 2016 campaign. Blankfein made direct donations to both Clinton's 2000 New York senate race and again in 2007 when she was running for the Democratic nomination for president. Blankfein's wife, Laura, has donated money to Clinton this time around. And Blankfein could have donated in a number of ways indirectly, once again to shield Clinton from criticism.
The question is whether Clinton is too close to Wall Street. While she doesn't endorse breaking up the banks, she says she is for toughing up financial reform. In particular, Clinton has said she wants to rein in the shadow banks, financial institutions that act like banks, but are not regulated as tightly. Of course, increasingly regulation on those firms would probably be welcomed by Goldman and other big banks.