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SuperPac Filings, Candidates' Forums: The Week In Politics

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Ho hum, another Friday night in the American political season. Last night, Hillary Clinton released her medical report and her tax returns for the past eight years, and a huge cache of previously unseen emails from her personal server which she used while Secretary of State were revealed. And midnight brought the deadline for super PACs to report their second quarter intake. Of course next week, two events will feature nearly all the Republican candidates at one time or another. NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving probably didn't get much sleep. Ron, thanks very much for being up all night for us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: (Laughter) Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Let's begin with the tax returns. Hillary Clinton is rich. This is America. Good for her. Do you see any potential ethical or political questions, though?

ELVING: You know, Scott, the last time Hillary Clinton ran, people noticed that she and Bill had grown rich, like nine-figures rich, since leaving the White House. And it turns out that the second seven post-presidential years have been even better for them. They've been leveraging that Clinton brand for speeches, hundreds of thousands of dollars in speeches, in just one speech in some cases, lending it to various causes and enterprises. Turns out Bill Clinton, for example, got $16 million acting as honorary chancellor for an international group of for-profit colleges.

SIMON: It must be noted; they do contribute mightily to the U.S. Treasury.

ELVING: They do, indeed. The tax bill they paid is a stunning $44 million just since 2007. And the effective tax rate for federal, state and local taxes is well over 40 percent, you know, yet Hillary Clinton says she doesn't want a tax cut - doesn't think she needs a tax cut - and that the various Republican candidates for president are wrong to be proposing a tax cut for couples as rich as she and Bill clearly are.

SIMON: Of course, Republicans say that the - many - that this stimulates the economy to have them spend more. Let me ask you about health records. They're truly personal. When Bill Clinton was a candidate, he was reluctant to release them. Anything to spotlight in Hillary Clinton's report?

ELVING: Her note from her doctor says that she's quite ready to be president of the United States, says there are no ill effects of a permanent kind from the blood clot on her brain a few years ago that kept her from testifying at a few hearings back in 2012, early 2013. We do need to bear in mind that Hillary Clinton will be as old as Ronald Reagan was if she does indeed take the oath in January of 2017, so questions of health are certainly relevant.

SIMON: A lot of these - this Friday night document dump seemed to have displaced email as a topic of discussion. Was that the strategy?

ELVING: It would have seemed that way except that this particular dump doesn't appear to have had much radioactivity. The emails that are in it will be mined over time, but there were about 3,600 emails in this particular release. But so far, at least, it looks like pretty mundane, garden-variety State Department stuff, tensions between the State Department and the White House, intra-staff stuff, pesky senators asking for favors.

SIMON: (Laughter) Those pesky senators. How are the super PACs doing? They had to declare.

ELVING: (Laughter) Very well, thank you, everyone should have one or more than one. More than one is now the fashion. Jeb Bush is the big leader in this league. He's been lagging in the public opinion polls, but his super PAC has raised more than $100 million - $100 million - and that's 10 times more than his actual official campaign. But that's the new pattern now. You know, the old rules and limits have all pretty much broken down or been struck down by the Supreme Court.

SIMON: Saint Anselm, N.H., - what? - Monday night and then of course the much awaited Cleveland debate for Republican candidates on Thursday.

ELVING: That's right. Fourteen candidates, Monday night, in Manchester, N.H. - that'll be on C-SPAN span for two hours of questioning - and then on Thursday night, the much awaited Donald Trump plus nine. We're still waiting to see exactly who all of those nine will be.

SIMON: Yeah, there are a couple of candidates who are really, as we say, on the bubble, right?

ELVING: That correct. John Kasich, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, not sure exactly which of those three will be in the debate, but only two of the three probably will make the last list of 10.

SIMON: NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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