WASHINGTON – Large banks are not buying preferential treatment by contributing to her campaign, Hillary Clinton insisted again on Thursday, attempting to rebut charges leveled at her by Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Clinton, who remains the front-runner for the Democratic nomination but faces an unexpectedly tough primary fight from Sanders, pointed to contributions received by President Obama from the financial sector before he was elected.

"I debated then-Senator Obama numerous times on stages like this, and he was the recipient of the largest number of Wall Street donations of anybody running on the Democratic side ever," Clinton said. "Now, when it mattered, he stood up and took on Wall Street. He pushed through, and he passed the Dodd-Frank regulation, the toughest regulations since the 1930s."

Yet Sanders said it was naïve to think that big businesses donate millions of dollars and expect nothing in return.

"People aren't dumb," Sanders said. "Why in God's name does Wall Street make huge campaign contributions? I guess just for the fun of it; they want to throw money around."

During the campaign, Sanders has been a fierce critic of the campaign finance system and has emphasized the difference between his financial support and Clinton's.

"Now, Secretary Clinton's super PAC, as I understand it, received $25 million last reporting period, $15 million from Wall Street," Sanders said. "Our average contribution is $27. I'm very proud of that."

Clinton said Sanders was "mixing apples and oranges" and that the super PAC currently supporting her was originally created to support Obama. "It's not my PAC," Clinton said. "If you take donations from Wall Street" you can be independent.

During the debate, Clinton and Sanders both strived to appear tougher on Wall Street.

"No Wall Street executive has been prosecuted" since the crisis despite billions of dollars of fines being levied, Sanders said.

Clinton emphasized that her plan would go after large nonbanks that played a role in the mortgage meltdown.

"I go further in the plan that I've proposed, which has been called the toughest, most effective, comprehensive plan for reining in the other risks that the financial system could face," Clinton said.

She added that it was nonbanks like Countrywide Financial and American Insurance Group that were some of the worst offenders. (Contrary to Clinton's claim, Countrywide was not a nonbank at the time of its troubles, but was a federally regulated thrift when it was purchased by Bank of America in 2008.) "My plan would sweep all of them into a regulatory framework so we can try to get ahead of what the next problems might be," Clinton said. "Because of Dodd-Frank, we now have in law a process that the president, the Federal Reserve and others can use if any bank poses a systemic risk."

But Sanders responded, "In my view," Dodd-Frank "doesn't go anywhere near far enough."

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