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The following excerpt is from The Guardian:

She needs to prove that she isn’t still in the hands of big money. She has only been proving the opposite again and again. I want to vote for Hillary. I just need a reason to do so.

Please explain the meaning of the phrase in bold. I can only guess it may mean that somehow she was involved in some fraudulent financial activities in the past and now she needs to prove that she's no longer, but I'm not sure.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms defines:

in the hands of: In the possession of; in the custody or under the authority of.

If we consider that collective mentality usually assumes that big money can only be made unorthodoxly then my guess could probably be true. On the other hand, being in the hands of big money might mean that she's controlled by big money, that is, wealthy people, but these are just my thoughts, so please don't get me wrong.

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  • "Unorthodoxly" sounds like it might be a real adverb, but...sorry! Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 16:45
  • @P.E.Dant, Perhaps it's used rarely? Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 16:51
  • Remarkable. If I hadn't seen that link, I would never have believed it. How is it that you are acquainted with such obscure adverbs, yet puzzled by as simple a turn of phrase as "in the hands of big money?" Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 16:54
  • @P.E.Dant, frankly speaking, in my language it's quite usual, I've just checked to see if it exists in English. Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 17:10
  • Your second guess is correct. "She's in the hands" means someone is controlling her. "In the hands of big money" means under the control of the rich.
    – slebetman
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 5:04

3 Answers 3

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On the other hand, being in the hands of big money might mean that she's controlled by big money, that is, wealthy people,

Pretty much this is what it means.

Although it might not mean wealthy people specifically but entities that have a lot of money to contribute to campaign funds or lobby. These could include political action committees of both individuals, corporations (in the US corporations are legally equivalent to people in a lot of situations), sets of individuals, and industry alliances (e.g. RIAA, MPAA, etc.)

Similar terms are "Big Business", "Big Oil", and a new one "Big Data" to mean the extreme power - political, financial or otherwise - wielded by the powerful members of a certain class.

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    +1 for big business, whence come big tobacco and big insurance and all the others, and analogues like big science, but big data isn't quite the same; it's a practice, not an industry. Pfizer is big pharma, and the AFL-CIO is big labor, and GM (or Delta or CBS) is one of the big three but they all also do big data in the same way that Facebook and Google— big tech — do.
    – choster
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 17:20
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    Big Data is absolutely NOT the same usage of "big" as Big Money, Big Oil, etc. Otherwise spot on.
    – Hellion
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 19:04
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    Accurate answer but just to clarify: Big Data is "extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions." While it is true that most people who own "extremely large data sets" are private, large corporations, it is also possible for individuals to perform Big Data analysis from massive data sets they compiled themselves.
    – HC_
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 19:13
  • Good insights. I struck out my mistake, but didn't delete it because this is all good information.
    – LawrenceC
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 19:14
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    It wouldn't be wrong to describe corporations like Google and Facebook as Big Data, meaning it in the same sense that Chevron and Shell are Big Oil, but I haven't actually seen anyone do that ... yet.
    – zwol
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 20:48
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Big money is an idiomatic expression which is often used both in financial and more common contexts:

  • a large amount of money:

    • Tournament organizers need to offer big money to attract the top players. (Cambridge Dictionary)

Here big money is a metaphor for those who are supposed to be financing her political campaign (big corporations etc.), from which, she (Hillary) needs to prove to be independent (that is she is no longer in their hands).

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Big money here means any person or entity with a large amount of money who is looking for political favors in exchange for making donations to the campaign. It is not an official term.

In the hands of means controlled by.

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