It’s been 13 days since Elizabeth Warren defeated Republican Scott Brown to become the next U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. Even though she doesn’t officially assume the office until January, there’s a group of people already freaking out about the very real prospect of Senator Warren: bank lobbyists.
And who could blame them? They had a true friend in Scott Brown, who took more contributions from the financial industry than any other Senator or candidate, and who worked to weaken Wall Street reform just weeks after his election.
The contrast couldn’t be greater with Elizabeth Warren, who made her mark on the TARP Oversight Committee grilling bank execs and Treasury Secretary Geithner over their handling of the 2008 bank bailout. She’s already faced down Wall Street’s lobbyist-lawyer armada in 2010, when she successfully set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which has already recouped $425 million to consumers.
So the idea of Warren in a position to make policy governing banks has Wall Street and K Street in a tizzy, according to Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll:
Aides to two senators on the banking committee tell Mother Jones the industry has already moved to block Warren from joining the committee, which is charged with drafting legislation regulating much of the financial industry. “Downtown”—shorthand for Washington’s lobbying corridor—”has been going nuts” to keep her off the committee, another Senate aide says.
The “going nuts” has intensified since two Senators on the committee, Jack Reed (D-RI) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) have expressed support for Warren joining their ranks. Reed has been pushing hard for Warren, telling George Zornick of The Nation “I can’t think of anybody that’s come to the Senate with thirty years of detailed knowledge of the industry…” Johnson, the Banking Committee’s Chairman, expressed that he would “welcome her to the Committee if that’s what she wishes.”
The final decision, however, lies in the hands of Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader. It also depends on the complex backroom Senate version of musical chairs, where various Senators are watching to see who takes what committee assignments before they make their intentions clear.
But let’s be clear about why the “Downtown” lobbyists are going nuts. They aren’t just frightened of a Senator who believes Wall Street shouldn’t operate like a casino. They are also frightened of a Senator who is as untethered to political party as Warren is:
Warren isn’t necessarily loyal to “Team Blue”—Democrat elected officials, their staffs, and the lobbyists connected to them. They point to Warren’s early clashes with the Obama administration’s Treasury Department over the financial sector bailout as evidence that she cannot be counted upon.
Scott Brown is still the Senator from Massachusetts until January, so for the purposes of the “lame duck” session he’s still the one to watch. But as the success of a petition from Daily Kos demonstrates, there’s a hunger for a pro-consumer, anti-Wall-Street-casino Senator among American working families – and real fear of it from the lobbyists “Downtown.”
As a candidate for U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is running a lot of ads on TV. But if you want, skip those 30-second spots and watch this six-minute clip of Warren in 2009, in her previous role on the Congressional panel overseeing the Wall Street bailout, hammering Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on how favorably the way banks were treated during the process.
Geithner and Warren are both Democrats. But partisanship goes out the window as Warren asks question over question. Why did so much money go to AIG? Why was this process so different from that of the auto industry? And overall, why are these enormous, reckless financial institutions, whose very actions made the costly taxpayer bailout necessary, being coddled while middle class families suffer the consequences?
This is why working families need Elizabeth Warren in the U.S. Senate: because she has the experience, knowledge, and passion to take Wall Street to task – in stark contrast to all too many current members of Congress, regardless of party, who think it is their duty to do Wall Street’s bidding.
For Massachusetts families, Warren is a worthy successor to the Ted Kennedy legacy in that she fearlessly prioritizes working class families above all else. But she would also be a senator for a new era, one in which “corporate personhood,” eroding worker rights, and yawning inequality threaten our country in ways Kennedy could not have predicted.
And we don’t have to imagine the kind of tenacity Elizabeth Warren would bring to the U.S. Senate. We’ve already seen it in her fight to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which pitted Warren and her allies against the greatest lobbying force the financial industry has ever assembled. She succeeded, and in its initial months the CFPB has an impressive record of accomplishment: keeping credit bureaus honest, protecting consumers from being harassed by debt collectors, and the remarkable collection of $425 million in unfair credit card fees from American Express, Discover, and Capitol One.
While Warren’s work even outside the Senate has already resulted in $425 million back in the pockets of consumers, incumbent Scott Brown’s work in the U.S. Senate has resulted in more obstruction and unemployment. Promising to be an independent voice during his last campaign, Brown voted with fellow Republicans to block three different jobs bills: the comprehensive American Jobs Act, a bill to create infrastructure jobs, and a bill to help states rehire public workers like teachers and first responders. Had they passed, 11,000 unemployed Massachusetts workers could have jobs right now.
The greatest point of contrast, however, comes back to Wall Street. While Warren has committed to protect consumers from Wall Street’s recklessness and abusive behavior, Scott Brown is their faithful servant. He has received over $3.3 million in campaign contributions from the financial sector this cycle, more than any other member of Congress or Congressional candidate. He has repaid them by voting for tax breaks for millionaires and against tax cuts for those making less than $250,000. In the process of passing the 2010 Wall Street reform bill, Brown slipped in an exemption to allow banks to continue to invest in risky hedge funds and private equity firms.
The contrast is clear: A crusader for Wall Street and the financial industry, or a crusader for Massachusetts working families. We wholly endorse the latter, Elizabeth Warren, for U.S. Senate. Plan your vote now.
Meet Scott, a tall, handsome Massachusetts resident who drives a pick-up truck. I’m not talking about Scott Brown; I’m talking about Scott Johnson. Scott Johnson is a volunteer with Working America Quincy’s campaign to help Elizabeth Warren – Scott Brown’s opponent – win the US Senate seat in Massachusetts.
In my first conversation with Scott Johnson, he explained to me that he wants someone in office who will represent us. As he stated, that means someone who shares our values. Scott Brown may resemble Scott Johnson, but Elizabeth Warren will represent Scott Johnson. That’s why Scott Johnson is dedicating time, thought, and energy to giving Elizabeth Warren the opportunity to serve as our next US Senator.
Scott Johnson is well-aware that the decisions our politicians make can affect us tremendously. It’s clear to him that we’ve got to elect the people who make decisions with working families in mind. Scott explained in submissions to the Quincy Patriot Ledger last week:
I work in construction, and I’ve been searching for steady work since 2008. Whenever a job ends, my coworkers and I always feel like it will be a struggle to find another one. One of my friends moved to Maine and wants me to move up there for a job. I am now forced to choose between my home and basic financial stability.
President Obama’s American Jobs Act would have invested in infrastructure and education, and would have provided work for workers like me. It was a missed opportunity. US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has another jobs plan: one we can’t afford to miss. Her Rebuild Now Plan would put people back to work fixing our infrastructure and our schools. I’m supporting her, because she fights for us, and I encourage readers to support her too.
Scott’s letter highlights what so many folks in Quincy have told me: “Elizabeth Warren fights for the middle class / the working class / the little guy / us.” Elizabeth Warren’s Rebuild Now jobs plan will create many thousands of needed family-sustaining job opportunities for residents of the Commonwealth, while equipping Massachusetts with the infrastructure it needs to compete and thrive. Scott Brown’s image-based campaign can’t hold a candle to Elizabeth Warren’s vision and track record as a dedicated fighter for working families. In fact, the more that Working America organizers and volunteers talk to folks about Brown’s and Warren’s records and plans on the issues that matter to them (like family-sustaining jobs, corporate accountability, and education), the more folks support Elizabeth Warren.
With dedicated volunteers like Scott Johnson working to bring voters the information they’re hungry for, I’m looking forward to watching Elizabeth Warren keep on rising in the polls.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, a Democrat, and Republican Senator Bob Corker have worked on a bipartisan bill for weeks meant to overcome disputes on an issue of high importance to the Obama administration.
One source familiar with the Dodd-Corker talks said the two may announce an agreement on Friday and release a summary of the details of their deal next week.
One key component is to put a new government watchdog for financial consumers in the Federal Reserve, instead of making the watchdog an independent agency or housing it in another agency, two policy analysts said in a research note.
But independence is key, wherever the CFPA is located—that’s a requirement that cannot be compromised or consumer protection is compromised.
“My first choice is a strong consumer agency,” the Harvard Law professor and federal bailout watchdog said in an interview with the Huffington Post. “My second choice is no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.”
I suspect that even Republicans, in their hearts, understand the need for real reform. But their strategy of opposing anything the Obama administration proposes, coupled with the lure of financial-industry dollars — back in December top Republican leaders huddled with bank lobbyists to coordinate their campaigns against reform — has trumped all other considerations.
That said, some Republicans might, just possibly, be persuaded to sign on to a much-weakened version of reform — in particular, one that eliminates a key plank of the Obama administration’s proposals, the creation of a strong, independent agency protecting consumers. Should Democrats accept such a watered-down reform?
I say no.
There are times when even a highly imperfect reform is much better than nothing; this is very much the case for health care. But financial reform is different. An imperfect health care bill can be revised in the light of experience, and if Democrats pass the current plan there will be steady pressure to make it better. A weak financial reform, by contrast, wouldn’t be tested until the next big crisis. All it would do is create a false sense of security and a fig leaf for politicians opposed to any serious action — then fail in the clinch.