Following the Money on Financial Reform

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., former CFTC chair Brooksley Born and others are none too happy about the 2013 financial services appropriations bill. President Obama had requested $308 million for the Commodities and Futures Trade Commission, an amount that House Republicans had severely undercut to $180.4 million. Frank, Born, and industry leaders made their displeasure known during a Capitol Hill press conference this morning.

The U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) now regulates derivatives trading and speculation, thanks to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Reform Act. Those financial instruments played significant roles in bringing the financial system to its knees in 2008.

Frank, Born, and other House Democrats used a multitude of sports and animal analogies to insist that Wall Street donations to Republicans were undermining the potential for financial regulation.

“What we have is the confluence of money on steroids,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair John Larson, D-Conn. “Now we are throwing the American people to the wolves.”

“The fact that the Republican Party is lavishing money on weapons systems that the Pentagon does not want while reducing the necessary funds for the regulation of derivatives, is a textbook example of terrible priorities,” said Frank in a Tuesday statement.

Anyone who can use Google can figure out that Wall Street is the only force in our country right now that is above the fray of party politics. In fact, it may be their only saving grace.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the top industry contributor to Frank’s campaign committee came from securities and investment. CFTC commissioner Gary Gensler, who was sworn in by a Democratic Senate, worked at Goldman Sachs for 18 years before going to the Treasury. A prominent House Democrat at the press conference even admitted to voting for financial deregulation in the 1990s.

Funding cuts for the CFTC and the Security and Exchanges Commission are problematic for progressives who want to protect average Americans, fix economic inequality and avoid another financial crisis. How exactly is that supposed to happen when the same people who attack moneyed interests at press conferences are quietly taking Wall Street donations?

Progressives have an obligation to call out politicians who say nice things about our ideals, while hiding their commitment to the status quo in plain sight. This isn’t to deny that the Dodd-Frank Act and other progressive Democratic efforts are responsible for significant Wall Street reforms. However, these regulatory agencies also need chairs and lawmakers who will tirelessly advocate for them without the stain of big bank donations – Democrat or Republican.

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