LATEST UPDATES: Tell us how your call went in the report back section right here, or scroll down below. We have had so many calls and so many reports back, it’s really great to watch the staffers start to get it and know we’re around. This week, our targets are Sen. Johnson, Rep. Frank, Sen. Corker, and Sen. Reed. TPM reports on the four New Dems weakening measures behind closed-doors, can you call them and report back?: Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), (202) 225-8203; Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), 202-225-3461; Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC), 202-225-1510; Rep. Dennis Moore, Chair (D-KS), (202)225-2865. Rep. Frank has tried to gut provisions to reform credit rating agencies, showing where he is going with the bill… The Senate agreed to expand auditing of the Fed – 1 BIG WIN SO FAR. Our #2 reform discussed now, seems like a win.. Thank you for making the calls! (Follow on @wayfwd, FaceBook, riski)

We’re going to make sure there are no backroom deals that effectively gut the best reforms currently in the bill — we’ve launched “Call-in Days for the Big 3 No Bailouts Reforms” to put every decision maker in the spotlight for gutting or keeping the Big 3. We have 14 days until June 24 to influence the financial reform bill to be something worth passing. So, yesterday on Tuesday, today on Wednesday (6/16), and tomorrow on Thursday (6/17), please help us get enough people so it’s like we’re walking right into the backroom with them and slapping their hands if they do something bad. We’ll update our list on the slimiest and worst on financial reform. Full list below.

Sign up for a day that works for you — you just need a 5 minute chunk of time free — and we’ll make your call effortless. If you’ve already signed up and when you finish your call, add what you find out in the report back section here. As soon as we hear back from you, we’ll update who is acting the sleaziest (you can also report back at #finreg #716 on twitter).

We need to call as much as each of us can to stop government support and incentives for banks to become bigger and riskier – this is structural reform.

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE LAST LEG OF FINANCIAL REFORM? The financial reform bill is going into the final stage in the legislative process this week and bought-out members of Congress are trying to stealthily remove all the provisions in it that the big banks oppose. The financial reform bill would be a pure product of lobbying and big banking if it were not for the just a handful of “No Bailout Reforms” that are still in the bill as we speak. Can you join us in making sure that conferees don’t gut the strongest provisions in the financial reform bill behind closed doors?

No-Bailout Reform #1, is Section 716, “PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS OF SWAPS ENTITIES”. Currently, the Senate financial reform bill still has language in it that will stop the biggest, most dangerous banks from getting federal bailouts for their riskiest gambling. The provision that provides for this would require banks to spin off the derivatives activities into separate entities without access to discount Fed money and FDIC guarantees. It is structural reform. This is the main provision that our conference committee members are being asked to gut by the lobbyists. 716 literally says this in its own bill text. Without this language financial companies that turned themselves into banks for the purpose of receiving bailouts under the TARP will get to stay bailout recipients in perpetuity. Without this language, the 2008 crisis will lead to a permanent situation where the government continually subsidizes derivatives trades, which were at the heart of what caused the crisis. Here’s more from Bankster.

No-Bailout Reform #2, STRONG CAPITAL REQUIREMENTS FOR BIG AND SMALL BANKS: When banks make their bets, they’re supposed to put some money down. Over the years, the largest banks received exemptions to how much, and therefore their bets got riskier. This time around, Senators Collins and Representative Speier have introduced complementary amendments in the Senate and House to make sure that the money these banks put down for their bets is real capital and is enough to keep the big banks from taking risks they can’t pay for and need to be bailed out by taxpayers. For strong capital requirements, the best of the House and Senate version need to stay. Here’s more from Rortybomb.

No-Bailout Reform #3, A NEW CONSUMER PROTECTION AGENCY: A signature reform of the Obama Administration and TARP watchdog Elizabeth Warren, an independent consumer watchdog agency can stop financial corporations from abusing consumers. “Subprime mortgages. Abusive and arbitrary rate hikes on your credit card. Payday loans. If you’re wondering who lets banks get away with this crap, there are more people at it than you think. There are no less than four federal regulators responsible for overseeing consumer protection in finance, and all of them are terrible,” writes Zach Carter. The Senate bill would house the CFPA in the Fed and allow the Fed to veto their rules proposal. That’s unacceptable. We need an independent CFPA, via the House bill, with full rule-making authority. More from HuffPo.

BIG REFORM #4: First and foremost, we’re advocates of breaking up the big banks. We fought for the Brown-Kaufman amendment to cap the size of banks before they get too big to fail, but it didn’t pass with the Senate bill. Therefore, we agree with Dr. Simon Johnson that Rep. Kanjorski’s amendment to allow regulators to break up the banks is an important part of the finreg bill and are happy to push for it. To see more reforms, see our blog post from Stephanie and Ruth.

Supporters of these measures are Nobel Laureate Economist Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, renowned Economists Robert Reich, Jane D’Arista, Dean Baker, Simon Johnson, Jennifer Taub, David Moss, Michael Greenberger, financial writers and advocates, Rortybomb/Mike Konczal, Ilan Moscovitz of the Motley Fool, Zach Carter of CAF/Alternet, Public Citizen, CAF, David Dayen/FireDogLake, BanksterUSA, McJoan of Daily Kos. Join them!

Latest movements for the strongest reforms: Simon Johnson, Rortybomb, FireDogLake. CNBC says banks will lose on 716. Fed Chiefs support 716. NYTimes editorial.

AND NOW, WHO IS WATERING DOWN THE BILL? We have figured out who is trying to water down the bill thanks to the many people who have told us what they have heard in the comments of this post and what has been said in public.

Who of the 28+ are running the sleaziest deals (today the top 4 are Frank, Reed, Johnson, and Corker)?:

Big Bank Defenders (they would love to hear from you):
* Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D, IL) (202) 225-8203 here, here
* Rep. Spencer Bachus (R, AL) 202-225-4921 report, report
* Sen. Jack Reed (R, RI) (202) 224-4642 here, CFPA
* Rep. Dennis Moore, Chair (D, KS) 202-225-2865 blue dog, here
* Rep. Mel Watt (D, NC) 202-225-1510 bank cash, pro-CFPA, here
* Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI), (202) 225-5802 here, here
* Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) 202 224 3521 here

* Rep. Scott Garrett (R, NJ) 202-225-4465 C-SPAN, this
* Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) 202-224-6142 here
* Rep. Judy Biggert (R, IL) 202-225-3515 bad
* Rep. Gregory Meeks (D, NY) (202) 225-3461 bad, here
* Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R, TX) 202-225-3484 bad
* Rep. Edward Royce (R, CA) 202-225-4111 here, here
* Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) 202 224 3324 report, article
* Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) 202 224 5744 here, here
* Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) 202 224 3344 here

Public Defenders (so far):

* Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D, PA) (202) 225-6511 here
* Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D, AR) (202) 224-4843 gutting, reverting, report
* Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) 202-225-2165 prefers House version, maybe
* Sen. Tom Harkin (D, IA) (202) 224-3254 here
* Sen. Patrick Leahy (D, VT) (202) 224-4242 here
* Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) 202-224-5842 pro-CFPA
* Rep. Maxine Waters (D, CA) (202) 225-2201 here, here

MYSTERIOUS (they need calls ahora)

* Sen. Chris Dodd (D, CT) (202) 224-2823 report, and report, report
* Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) 202 224 6542 report, most fin cash, here
* Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D, OH) 202-225-2015 neutral
* Rep. Shelley Capito (R, WV) 202-225-2711 (against)
* Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D, NY) (202) 225-7944 unclear, here
* Rep. Barney Frank (D, MA) (202) 225-5931 no, yes, yes, here, YES

We hope that you are helping to call, join us for the next day or call right now, and further target the few people we need to reach. Then, help us finish the job — we can’t wait to hear from you so we can update our list of sleaziest deals — tell us what you hear in the comments of this post. Thanks for making it happen!

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written by Stephanie Remington and Ruth Robertson, great ANWF organizers in California.

Today is the day of our call-in days — please call — as they start to hear from us, they have to move. We’ve got a few days to get good reform – the details matter.  The banks are spending a fortune lobbying congress to keep things the way they are, but the rest of us (on the receiving end of their catastrophic risk-taking and blatant fraud) outnumber them.  We can’t lose sight of the public interest because we can get what we want by forcing their hand. Lincoln, Dodd, and Congress aren’t going to come back and say, “hey, you really changed our positions, activism really matters!”, but their omissions should are remiss.

Of course the problem with financial reform in the first place is that we’re tackling the entire system at once, including the small details. So many amendments are about very specific, obscure financial operations, which many people just don’t find that interesting. The details have hurt our fight for strong structural reform — everything is presented as and in one sense is complicated, some people just completely tune it out. Well, there are clear, overarching, very general, extremely structural solutions to the key issues leading to the financial crisis.

We only care about structural reforms that address key problems of financial crises:

Read the rest of this post here.

1.   First and foremost, Section 716 which addresses the problem of derivatives is the strongest and currently most possible reform we can push for. It’s gone through many cycles, and our readers have successfully fought through them. The good news is — it is still in the bill. It is the most contentious provision and it will define how strong the Democrats are on the big banks.

No other provision will accomplish what 716 does in terms of removing the subsidy enjoyed by a handful of institutions. Section 716 is the best chance for ending the ongoing threat to the taxpayer in the the current business of derivatives. At the heart of 716 is the structure it provides making a clear separation between the business of banking and that of marketing and trading derivatives. It provides a structure that protects the core financial functions of banks without extending those protections to cover highly risky derivatives transactions.
Section 716 will contribute to shrinking the size of individual institutions’ positions and the market itself by requiring that dealing and trading derivatives move to separately capitalized affiliates that do not have access to Fed lending facilities or FDIC guarantees. The huge capital reserves of institutions that dominate the U.S. market will no longer be available to support their outsized positions. The capital of derivatives affiliates, even if within the same holding company, will have to be much smaller, creating opportunities for non-bank firms to enter the market. Section 716 eliminates the risk the largest banks incur through marketing and trading OTC derivatives. It will help reduce the risk to the system as a whole by encouraging an expansion in the number of dealers in derivatives.
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) is behind 716 and she won her Democratic primary on the strength of committing to tough new rules on Wall Street. Unfortunately, 716 suffered a couple of casualties that will be fatal to reform if left untreated. But, Sen. Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) amendment (4086) addresses the loophole.

Lincoln wrote the whole of the derivatives section, including the “safe” proposals — she specified the means to end the biggest source of trouble with derivatives – that “the entire market operates in secret.”  She required “central clearing,” a means of shining light on and watching over trades. This provision was undercut by language added by Democrats (Section 739, paragraphs A and B).  This section would codify into law the now common practice of refusing to prosecute certain criminals for their demonstrably illegal activity. Section 739, paragraphs A and B, must be removed or voided by including Maria Cantwell’s amendment 4086 – it must be added for Lincoln’s section to work.

The Obama administration (notably, Treasury and Larry Summers), Senate Banking Chair Chris Dodd, and House Financial Services Chair Barney Frank propose a “substitute” (Merkley and Levin’s strengthened version of the Volcker rule). M-L must be in addition to, not instead of, Lincoln’s section.  There’s no overlap between them; neither can substitute for the other.  Mary Bottari of Bankster USA outlines five unique features of Lincoln’s section here.

2.  The Volcker Rule: Zach Carter, Fellow at Campaign for America’s Future, reports that “The best version of President Obama’s signature Wall Street reform was an amendment written by Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Carl Levin, D-Mich. It was never voted on in the Senate and the House bill contains no version of any ban on proprietary trading by commercial banks. The Senate bill does include a weak version of the Volcker Rule that bank-friendly regulators can easily defang if they choose.”  We need to push for inclusion of Merkley-Levin (SA 3931) in the conference and for negotiations that lead to a concrete ban on gambling with taxpayer money.

3. It is also important that we NOT forget about the Kanjorski amendment. While this amendment, introduced by Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (D-PA), does not impose a hard size cap on banks, it proposes a number of potential objective criteria that could be used to determine when banks need to be broken up, including the “scope, scale, exposure, leverage, interconnectedness of financial activities, as well as size of the financial company.” It would greatly strengthen the hand of regulators and reinforce their power to break up those banks.  As the amendment is written, a great deal of discretion would remain with the regulators, so it is much weaker than what is really needed. However, the Kanjorski amendment serves as a public reminder that “bailouts are bad” and it also increases the likelihood that management and directors would be replaced in a failing large bank.

4.   An independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency: Dodd gutted an original version, but it can be restored.  In its current form it wouldn’t actually protect consumers because, among other problems, it would be housed within the Fed which has yet to use its substantial, already-existing authority to protect consumers. As such it is the staying tuned to tip their hand.
Here’s a great video clip of an interview with Elizabeth Warren, Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee TARP bailout funds. Zach Carter reports that currently, “the House version of this agency is generally stronger than the Senate version, with more independence and broader authority. But the House version also exempts auto dealers from CFPA oversight which the Senate version does not.”

5.   Capital and leverage: From Zach Carter: “Thanks to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the Senate bill contains the strongest language to toughen capital requirements at big banks, forcing them to have more money on hand to cushion against losses. There is no corresponding language in the House bill, but the House legislation does contain a related provision capping bank leverage–the amount of borrowed money banks can use to place bets in the capital markets casinos. How these good amendments fare in the
conference committee will significantly impact how the financial system functions over the next decade.”  More from Rortybomb.

6.   Fed Audit: Congressman Ron Paul has been called the key battler against central banking and against the Federal Reserve and is the author of the book, End the Fed. His supporters say he has worked tirelessly to bring accountability to what they call “the secretive bank”.   The Congressman, who says he has worked to bring transparency to the Federal Reserve Bank for the past 30 years, introduced a bill to audit the Federal Reserve, but that bill did not make it into the Senate version of the Financial Reform Bill.  Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) later reintroduced an amendment  with the original Audit the Fed language, but the Senate rejected that amendment on May 11, 2010 by a 37-62 vote.

7.   Rating agencies: From Zach Carter: “Sen. Al Franken pushed through an amendment that substantively changes the corrupt business model at rating agencies. Right now, rating agencies do not get paid by the investors who use their ratings, but by the very banks who are issuing those securities. Franken would end this system, having regulators select which rating agencies rate which securities, rather than the banks who issue the securities. The House bill largely leaves the rating agency business model unchanged.”

8.   Swipe fees: From Zach Carter: “When you buy something at a store with a credit or debit card, Visa and Mastercard charge the store a fee. The store, in turn, charges you more for its products, making everything everybody buys more expensive. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., pushed through language cracking down on debit card fees, but there is no language addressing swipe fees of any kind in the House.”

9. Too big to fail: Sherrod Brown and Ted Kaufman introduced an outstanding bill that would have ended TBTF.  It did not pass the Senate, but is crucial to success of financial reform.

Some of the main obstacles to achieving true reform are people in the Obama Administration, as well as bankers spending big money on Congress members to get their support.  Along with our demands for specific language in the bill, we need to be pushing for the removal of Summers and Geithner and the appointment of a new Fed Chairman, which would effectively – and necessarily – get rid of Bernanke.  These people, among a larger group of insiders and captive regulators, must be replaced with people with successful track records, who believe in true reform, and who will push for it instead of blocking it at every turn.

We have, in Joseph Stiglitz, Robert Reich, and Simon Johnson, three people whose expertise and commitment to reform make them ideal candidates to replace Summers and Geithner and move our nation toward a healthy economy–an economy that will never again be at the mercy of the big banks. For a new Fed Chairman Joseph Stiglitz, for Secretary of the Treasury Robert Reich, and for Obama’s Economic Advisor, Simon Johnson would make a true Dream Team.

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As economist Joe Stiglitz says, “But if the final bill that emerges from conference reflects the lowest common denominator, then we can only pray to be spared another financial crisis in the near future. Our economy and our Treasury can ill afford another such episode.”

In a profile piece by the WSJ titled, “The Three Men of Regulation”, it’s clear that the men who helped to define the crisis also helped to define the terms of our financial overhaul plans. They chose to pit activists and banking lobbyists against each other around the debate of regulation. We should not be so silly to let conflicted politicians define the course of our financial system on terms that start and end around broken lines.

As many of you know, we thought that Congress had the ability to think more structurally and fight for structural change in the face of extreme big bank abuses and a financial crisis. They have not done so, except a few like Senators Kaufman who have fought for the interests of the public. But even as we fight for the toughest parts of the regulatory bill, we still have a long haul fight to define the debate in terms of structural issues. Break up the banks has its political constituency now and it’s on the table. We can define the debate on appropriate terms.

WSJ writes:

“To some extent, some of the people who did the most to help precipitate the crisis are now in charge of writing the legislation to make sure theoretically it doesn’t happen again,” Mr. Hensarling said.

Messrs. Geithner, Dodd and Frank each vigorously defend their reputations, often with fervor and equally barbed words for their critics.

Politically, the three move very differently. They also answer to different political constituencies, which could challenge their ability to deliver a completed package by an unofficial July 4 deadline.

Mr. Geithner was a political novice before joining the Obama administration. Mr. Dodd is a classic Senate deal maker. Mr. Frank benefits from a broad Democratic majority but has been known to catch lawmakers off guard.

On May 21, coming out of the White House meeting after the Senate vote, Mr. Frank had the endgame in sight.

“It’s hard to even think that this is going to take us a month,” he said.

Even Moody’s, a credit rating agency at the center of a firestorm on what to do about credit rating agencies, reports that the bill does not end too big to fail: “So much for ending Too Big To Fail. The financial reform bill championed by the Obama administration and Senate Democrats as permanently ending the idea that large, interconnected financial institutions are too big to fail does no such thing, analysts at Moody’s Investors Service cautioned today in a new report. “[A] key issue that challenges the feasibility of the proposed legislation is that it would not fully eliminate the issue of interconnectedness, nor is it likely that resolution authority could fully eliminate the systemic implications of allowing a large and/or highly interconnected firm to default, especially with respect to large international groups, and it certainly would not eliminate the risk of contagion,” the team of analysts led by Robert Young wrote.”
Fed Chief Fisher has come out fighting to square this bill as a small effort, he points out that the regulators failed: “Regulators have, for the most part, tiptoed around these larger institutions [big banks]. Despite the damage they did, failing big banks were allowed to lumber on, with government support. It should come as no surprise that the industry is unfortunately evolving toward larger and larger bank size with financial resources concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.”

As the bill that is going through conference now mostly focused on the battle of regulation, and should be called thus — the financial regulatory bill rather than financial reform bill — here is a very succinct take on the importance of regulation, via Angry Bear:

The obvious problems of graft and the revolving door between government and industry, in other words, were really symptoms of a more fundamental pathology: regulation itself became delegitimatized… This view was exacerbated by the way regulation works… Too many regulators, for instance, are political appointees, instead of civil servants. This erodes the kind of institutional identity that helps create esprit de corps, and often leads to politics trumping policy. Congress, meanwhile, often takes a famine-or-feast attitude toward funding, allocating less money when times are good and reinflating regulatory budgets after the inevitable disaster occurs. … This … also contributes to the sense that regulation is something it’s O.K. to skimp on.

[T]he history of regulation both here and abroad suggests that how we think about regulators, and how they think of themselves, has a profound impact on the work they do. … So reforming the system isn’t about writing a host of new rules; it’s about elevating the status of regulation and regulators. More money wouldn’t hurt: as … George Stigler and Gary Becker point out, paying regulators competitive salaries … would attract talent and reduce the temptations of corruption. It would also send a message about the value of what regulators do. That’s important… If we want our regulators to do better, we have to embrace a simple idea: regulation isn’t an obstacle to thriving free markets; it’s a vital part of them.

Big Banks Bought the SAFE Banking Vote

On May 9, 2010, in The Public, by Donny Shaw

The banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.

– Sen. Dick Durbin

On Thursday night, the U.S. Senate took what is probably the most clear-cut vote for or against the big banks they will ever take. The question: should we force the “too big to fail” banks to shrink themselves back to the size they were in 2003, or should we let them keep growing as big and systemically risky as they want? The overwhelming answer from the Senate: let them keep getting bigger!

The Brown-Kaufman SAFE Banking Act amendment voted on Thursday night created a confounding division in the Senate. Some of the most conservative Republicans sided with a bunch of the most liberal Democrats in favor of forever doing away with “too big to fail.” However, the vast majority, a mix of so-called liberals, conservatives and moderates, voted to keep things just as they are.

There has been a lot of speculation over where exactly the division was on this amendment. Dylan Ratigan called it “The People’s Party” vs. “The Bankster Party.” And Matt Taibbi wondered if there wasn’t some kind of sick joke involved.

It was a strange roll call, but I think I’ve figured it out. It was all about campaign contributions.

Looking at finance/insurance/real estate sector campaign contribution data from OpenSecrets.org, I found that senators who voted against the Brown-Kaufman SAFE Banking amendment have received nearly twice as much money from the big banks as the senators who voted in favor of it. Specifically, the average senator voting against the amendment has received $3,578,898 from the financial sector over the course of their career, while the average senator voting in favor has received only $1,846,292. It’s very close to double for those opposed. And when we are talking about millions of dollars, double is a whole lot of money and a whole lot of influence.

We can’t keep letting the banks receive public support to get bigger and riskier through hidden subsidies and bailouts. They are bigger right now than they were when they were first deemed too big to fail. The current financial reform bill does almost nothing to solve too-big-to-fail. It is business as usual. I really wonder, will Obama be proud of this bill when he passes it — does he really believe it will help to prevent the next crisis and the next round of bailouts, or does he just think it’s a political winner?

Below are the individual contribution totals for each senator from the finance/insurance/real estate sector divided by how they voted on the Brown-Kaufman SAFE Banking amendment. The data makes it perfectly clear — senators voting against the amendment were bought off and doing the bidding of the banks. The senators voting for the amendment were acting with independence and doing the only reasonable thing — voting to limit the size of the too-big-to-fail banks.

The 33 Yes Votes

Senator Career $ from Finance
Sen. Mark Begich [D, AK] $412,637
Sen. Jeff Bingaman [D, NM] $1,059,499
Sen. Barbara Boxer [D, CA] $2,765,288
Sen. Sherrod Brown [D, OH] $1,620,430
Sen. Roland Burris [D, IL] $4,900
Sen. Maria Cantwell [D, WA] $1,878,690
Sen. Ben Cardin [D, MD] $2,756,636
Sen. Bob Casey [D, PA] $1,355,841
Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK] $1,078,264
Sen. Byron Dorgan [D, ND] $1,455,834
Sen. Richard Durbin [D, IL] $3,055,424
Sen. John Ensign [R, NV] $2,589,370
Sen. Russell Feingold [D, WI] $990,917
Sen. Al Franken [D, MN] $1,022,598
Sen. Thomas Harkin [D, IA] $2,534,445
Sen. Ted Kaufman [D, DE] $0
Sen. Patrick Leahy [D, VT] $615,682
Sen. Carl Levin [D, MI] $2,260,576
Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR] $2,447,809
Sen. Jeff Merkley [D, OR] $721,157
Sen. Barbara Mikulski [D, MD] $1,301,068
Sen. Patty Murray [D, WA] $1,687,337
Sen. Mark Pryor [D, AR] $1,345,008
Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] $4,389,858
Sen. Jay Rockefeller [D, WV] $2,213,734
Sen. Bernie Sanders [I, VT] $181,095
Sen. Richard Shelby [R, AL] $5,371,330
Sen. Arlen Specter [D, PA] $6,406,258
Sen. Debbie Stabenow [D, MI] $1,899,835
Sen. Tom Udall [D, NM] $1,062,336
Sen. Jim Webb [D, VA] $563,161
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse [D, RI] $1,222,607
Sen. Ron Wyden [D, OR] $2,658,024
TOTAL $60,927,648

The 61 No Votes

Senator Career $ from Finance
Sen. Daniel Akaka [D, HI] $556,295
Sen. Lamar Alexander [R, TN] $4,940,775
Sen. John Barrasso [R, WY] $295,932
Sen. Max Baucus [D, MT] $4,790,487
Sen. Evan Bayh [D, IN] $4,393,347
Sen. Michael Bennet [D, CO] $835,796
Sen. Kit Bond [R, MO] $3,255,538
Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA] $1,015,364
Sen. Samuel Brownback [R, KS] $1,336,269
Sen. Richard Burr [R, NC] $2,988,952
Sen. Thomas Carper [D, DE] $2,311,778
Sen. Saxby Chambliss [R, GA] $3,483,860
Sen. Thad Cochran [R, MS] $662,234
Sen. Susan Collins [R, ME] $2,273,113
Sen. Kent Conrad [D, ND] $2,507,437
Sen. Bob Corker [R, TN] $3,150,750
Sen. John Cornyn [R, TX] $4,597,492
Sen. Michael Crapo [R, ID] $1,779,063
Sen. Chris Dodd [D, CT] $14,367,412
Sen. Michael Enzi [R, WY] $1,087,043
Sen. Dianne Feinstein [D, CA] $3,657,556
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D, NY] $2,334,456
Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC] $1,951,429
Sen. Chuck Grassley [R, IA] $2,605,399
Sen. Judd Gregg [R, NH] $1,070,249
Sen. Kay Hagan [D, NC] $585,694
Sen. Orrin Hatch [R, UT] $2,481,543
Sen. Kay Hutchison [R, TX] $4,694,038
Sen. James Inhofe [R, OK] $1,477,202
Sen. Daniel Inouye [D, HI] $1,453,487
Sen. John Isakson [R, GA] $3,849,408
Sen. Mike Johanns [R, NE] $697,621
Sen. Tim Johnson [D, SD] $3,143,865
Sen. John Kerry [D, MA] $18,112,577
Sen. Amy Klobuchar [D, MN] $734,117
Sen. Herbert Kohl [D, WI] $73,950
Sen. Jon Kyl [R, AZ] $3,741,994
Sen. Mary Landrieu [D, LA] $2,500,584
Sen. Frank Lautenberg [D, NJ] $3,478,817
Sen. George LeMieux [R, FL] $0
Sen. Joe Lieberman [I, CT] $10,084,996
Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] $33,474,029
Sen. Claire McCaskill [D, MO] $863,393
Sen. Mitch McConnell [R, KY] $5,247,103
Sen. Robert Menéndez [D, NJ] $4,151,772
Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R, AK] $875,690
Sen. Bill Nelson [D, FL] $3,213,078
Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] $2,844,056
Sen. Jack Reed [D, RI] $2,897,782
Sen. James Risch [R, ID] $228,711
Sen. Pat Roberts [R, KS] $1,647,286
Sen. Charles Schumer [D, NY] $15,918,336
Sen. Jeff Sessions [R, AL] $2,158,535
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen [D, NH] $1,046,765
Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME] $1,700,184
Sen. Jon Tester [D, MT] $603,993
Sen. John Thune [R, SD] $3,636,776
Sen. Mark Udall [D, CO] $1,781,168
Sen. George Voinovich [R, OH] $2,770,340
Sen. Mark Warner [D, VA] $2,632,766
Sen. Roger Wicker [R, MS] $1,263,098
TOTAL $218,312,780

Too Big to Fail

On April 26, 2010, in The Public, by Joe Costello

The morning light.
Another fresh fight.
Another row, right, right, right, right.
And I’m Totally Wired. Just Totally Wired
The Fall

Greider has a good piece on Larry Summers. The best part he admits to yelling at the TV, which is why I neither watch much TV or listen to Larry Summers. But it certainly would

have been a good thing to have taped the cracking of Greider’s wizened elder demeanor to see he can curse and bellow like like a sailor in the middle of a three day binge. After all, he was a real newspaper man for many years. Lord knows we could use plenty more of that from people who actually have things to say. Larry Summers is the personification of the American political disease of failing-up, unaccountable power, an increasingly dangerous malignancy coursing through our body politic. Greider takes Summers to task for several prevarications, notably his babbling in favor of “too big to fail“, which of course Larry’s going to support, he’s been working for the mega-corporations his whole career.

Quashing too big to fail is one of the most important concepts in American politics today, but it has little organized political constituency. Recently, it’s been floating around the margins of debate, such that is, on financial reform, given new life by Joe Biden’s Senate replacement Ted Kaufman. There’s some irony there, as a post-New Deal Liberal, Old Joe never was and is no anti-too big to fail guy — cheers to Mr. Kaufman. Breaking up the big banks is completely in the American tradition of anti-trust, which grew as a reaction to the burgeoning power of our industrial and financial corporations at the turn of 19th and 20th centuries. Anti-trust was a solution in the American tradition, its roots in Jefferson’s seminal understanding that democracy is necessarily decentralized. Unfortunately, anti-trust fell by the wayside during the New Deal. The European import of Bismarkian welfare statism came to the forefront.  An attempt was made to balance the centralized power of industrial corporatism by growing the power of the federal government. It failed, the corporations took over the government.

A genuine and solid critique of some aspects of the New Deal, grounded in the American tradition against centralized power, was propagated by both some genuine conservatives and a few liberals. But for the most part, this critique disappeared a long time ago. What is called conservatism today is some sort of rotten mutation, offering no critique of corporatism, its leadership for the most part mega-corporate shills. On the other side are the liberals, and I’ll say over the years, I’ve met few who were small “d” democrats, Bismarkian statism had become the liberals’ North star. By the mid 20th century, the doctrines of industrialism such as economies of scale replaced republicanism, proliferating the politics of oligarchy.

Anti-too big to fail offers an excellent opportunity for reform politics today. Not just as another campaign to call your DC mega-corporate shill, but as the foundation for a real effort to organize republican reform. A place to begin a political dialog that cuts across the dysfunctional, effete, and increasingly empty categories promoted by the political class and the corporate media. A conversation asking how do we evolve self-government in the 21st century by restoring some of the principles of its 18th century founding combined with the knowledge and technologies of today.

Cross-posted from Too Big to Fail

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BBC did a really inspiring profile on the Raging Grannies. They are featured taking action against the big banks at a local ATM in Palo Alto, as a part of the ANWF break up with your bank campaign. Their songs are quite nice and you get to hear what it’s like to interact with people around the big bank issue.

San Francisco's Raging Grannies

In San Francisco an army of angry grannies have decided to challenge the power of the big banks in California.

They call themselves the Raging Grannies, and are a group of grandmothers who protest against the issues that anger them most.

The Raging Grannies were first formed in British Columbia, Canada, back in 1987.

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Senator Kaufmans’ speech the other day is certainly the most full and most thoughtful speech/writing coming out of Congress. It was a pleasure to read, I could feel the bats hitting home runs with each paragrah. He has a bright mind and thinks carefully about structural and fundamental change. This speech gets technical, but if there is anything worth referencing that is also comprehensive, this is the speech. Amazing, where has Kaufman been. Now is the time to show him your support. I think we should put this on our policy page.

Senator Kaufman breaks from the silence

Wall Street Reform That Will Prevent The Next Financial Crisis

March 11, 2010

Introduction:  Where the Burden of Proof Lies

Financial regulatory reform is perhaps the most important legislation that the Congress will address for many years to come. Because if we don’t get it right, the consequences of another financial meltdown could truly be devastating.

In the Senate, as we continue to move closer to consideration of a landmark bill, however, we are still far short of addressing some of the fundamental problems – particularly that of “too big to fail” – that caused the last crisis and already have planted the seeds for the next one.  And this is happening after months of careful deliberation and negotiations, and just a year and a half after the virtual meltdown of our entire financial system.

That is why I believe that reorganizing the regulators and giving them additional powers and responsibilities isn’t the answer.  We cannot simply hope that chastened regulators or newly appointed ones will do a better job in the future, even if they try their hardest.  Putting our hopes in a resolution authority is an illusion.  It is like the harbor master in Southampton adding more lifeboats to the Titanic, rather than urging the ship to steer clear of the icebergs.  We need to break up these institutions before they fail, not stand by with a plan waiting to catch them when they do fail.

Without drawing hard lines that reduce size and complexity, large financial institutions will continue to speculate confidently, knowing that they will eventually be funded by the taxpayer if necessary.  As long as we have “too big to fail” institutions, we will continue to go through what Professor Johnson and Peter Boone of the London School of Economics have termed “doomsday” cycles of booms, busts and bailouts, a so-called “doom loop” as Andrew Haldane, who is responsible for financial stability at the Bank of England, describes it.

The notion that the most recent crisis was a “once in a century” event is a fiction.  Former Treasury Secretary Paulson, National Economic Council Chairman Larry Summers, and J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon all concede that financial crises occur every five years or so.

Without clear and enforceable rules that address the unintended consequences of unchecked financial innovation and which adequately protect investors, our markets will remain subverted.

These solutions are among the cornerstones of fundamental and structural financial reform.  With them we can build a regulatory system that will endure for generations instead of one that will be laid bare by an even bigger crisis in perhaps just a few years or a decade’s time.  We built a lasting regulatory edifice in the midst of the Great Depression, and it lasted for nearly half a century.  I only hope we have both the fortitude and the foresight to do so again.

Thank you, Senator Kaufman, for your clarity, rigor, and service.

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Corker is part of the problem

On March 12, 2010, in Current Leadership, by Tiffiniy Cheng

Corker is the problem in getting a bill out of the Banking Committee. We’re non-partisan here at AWNF, but so far Republicans have shown no real interest in bank reform. I guess they love socializing the risk of failing corporations after all.

Obstructionists instead of real proposals in Senate. Donny Shaw, Zephyr Teachout, Franz Hartl and I are at the first ever Break up the Banks conference and the first ever Too-big-to-fail conference. People in this conference have more ideas. Follow our tweets or facebook for updates.

One of the two main Republican negotiators Dodd had been working with in recent weeks had a different take, however. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., blamed the breakdown on pressure to get a bill through the committee before the Senate starts a final push for health care overhaul legislation.

“There’s no question that White House politics and health care have kept us from getting to the goal line,” Corker said.

The two sides were close to finalizing a deal on Wednesday, Corker maintained.

“Yesterday was one of the more bizarre days that I’ve experienced in the Senate. I began the day feeling like we were on the five yard line as far as finishing something that we began on Feb. 10. Never did I realize that health care would affect financial regulation,” he said.

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On March 8, 2010, in Background and Research, by Joe Costello

Michael Sandel has a short, but excellent, post on liberalism. He gives a brief history of liberalism in the 20th century, though leaving out the story of its abandonment by many after its association with Michael Dukakis in 1988. However, the most important shift in the definition of liberalism occurred in the 1930s. The New Deal reforms abandoned one of the most important tenets of the American system, the Jeffersonian principle that democracy was inherently decentralized. Sandel suggests, and I think quite rightly, we must re-embrace this principle if we are to effect reform of our political economy.

With the growth in power of the major industrial corporations at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, a major liberal/progressive response was to break them up. Louis Brandeis became a major advocate of bringing Jefferson’s 18th century thinking on the undemocratic nature of concentrated power into the 20th century. Brandeis referred to it as “the curse of bigness“. Anti-trust, the breaking up of the new corporate structures, never gained much power, but as Sandel points out, after a brief flirtation, the New Deal abandoned anti-trust and what emerged was a hybrid-balance between, big government, big labor, and big corporations. Over the years, big corporations took over big government, destroying big labor. Today’s liberals cling to the notion that somehow they are going to get bigness to work.

One of the reasons our American politics and government is dysfunctional is because power was never meant to be so concentrated. Power from the beginning was checked and balanced, separated, and distributed not just in the three branches of the federal level, but also from the federal level with power in the states, and separated and balanced from the states with power in the counties and local governments, and finally from the county and local with power in the individual. The evolution of power across the 20th century was the antithesis to this system, with ever greater concentrations of power in DC and our mega-corporations. In part, the system isn’t working because it was never designed to work like this in the first place.

We need to reform our political economy and the only way we’re going to do that is by breaking-up power. We need to revitalize the American system by embracing the notion of equality and distributed power. Most interesting, over the last few decades, we have learned more about the ability to sustain order from the

bottom up using distributed networks. The Internet is the best example, showing distributed networks can be very stable, distributing power as opposed to hierarchical centralization. In many ways, this is not in anyway foreign to the first American system. In reforming our political economy, it would serve us well to think about how we revitalize the American system, at the same time evolving it for the 21st century.

Cross-posted from Archein: Liberalism

As of December 2009 the Big Four is something you can search for and read about on Wikipedia. It’s still a stub article, but it’s there. I can’t go in and fill it out because I am worried about conflicts of interest now that I campaign on the issue. Someone reading this post should feel more than welcome to though.

If Wikipedia status means anything, it at least means an idea or word has been said enough times to become a meme. And so, after all my work with A New Way Forward and the work of thousands of people, normal and fancy, over the past year, the Big Four is at least a meme. (For full disclosure, we’re now asking people to break up with their banks at bankbreakup.org and canvass with BanksterUSA.)

What does the Big Four mean? It’s the big 4 banks — Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Chase — who together are a dangerous entity in society. Together, they pose danger to society, the economy, and our politics. They each have past the size of a company that makes a company more efficient and have become giants that hold the strings to our country. They have gone into the territory of overpricing, dominating political debate, and taking down the country without remorse when they fail.

I talked about this on Danny Schechter’s radio show on the Progressive Radio Network today (archive will be posted on Media Channel as well).

How are the big 4 banks dangerous? When you’re a corporation you put more money into investing in your future to beat out the competition. These big 4 banks did this in the 90′s, and back in the 80′s, and back in the 20′s, and have won. They beat out all competition and now anything they want, including the dangerous stuff, is deemed okay.

Most likely, your wages haven’t gone up in the past 20 years, we have around 20% unemployment and underemployment, we have millions of foreclosures, we have $700 billion of household debt, young Americans spend 29% of their income on debt, we have lack of individual political power with the decline of unions and what they stand for and, our state and local budgets have just been bamboozled and taken away by the big banks.

We have a janitor facing eviction cleaning up after the CEO whose bank bought her house

“At first, Minneapolis janitor Rosalina Gomez said she didn’t realize she was cleaning up after the CEO of the bank that bought her foreclosed home in a September sheriff’s sale. “At the beginning I didn’t know he was the guy,” said Gomez through an interpreter in an interview with HuffPost.”

We have made-up rules and gouging prices created to make you trip up and make the big four more money: You can get on a blacklist for something you might do without thinking. “Disputing a credit card charge by asking for a “chargeback” can lead to being put on a blacklist that merchants can check for customers who might try to defraud them. Getting off the list costs $99, although the fee is waived if the customer didn’t know they were committing “friendly fraud,” said Brien Heideman, founder of BadCustomer.com, which keeps such a customer list for retailers that don’t want to get hit with costly credit chargebacks.”

We have Greece’s debt turned into a money-making insurance policy by a Big 4 and a Big 6. Bankster’s blog explains Greece, and here is a summary: “It’s “like selling a car with bad brakes and then taking out an insurance policy on the driver.” Greece is “too-big-to-fail”, is in heavy debt and can default. Goldman Sachs helped get them into debt by helping to hide the debt so they can loan even more money from others. Goldman, JP Morgan and others also sold “insurance policies” on Greece’s debt – their buyers will make a bunch of money if Greece goes totally bust.”

So, we’re at the beginning of realizing the answer to “Why are the Big 4 Banks dangerous to society and what’s a better way to do banking in this country?” Reuters knows why. They have a great graphic on the increase in size.

Simon Johnson beat me to it and layed out three reasons why “Big Banks are Bad”

“First, the economic advantages of bigness were not as great as claimed. In many cases big firms did well because they used unfair tactics to crush their competition. John D. Rockefeller became the poster child for these problems.

DESCRIPTION The original J.P. — that is, John Pierpont — Morgan.

Second, even well-run businesses became immensely powerful politically as they grew.

J.P. Morgan was without doubt the greatest financier of his day. But when he put together Northern Securities — a vast railroad monopoly — he became a menace to public welfare, and more generally his grip on corporations throughout the land was, by 1910, widely considered excessive.

Third, there was a blatant attempt to use the political power of big banks to shape the financial playing field in ways that would help them (and their close allies) and hurt the remainder of the private sector — including farmers, small businesses and everyone else.”

Any results-based, research-heavy, social-issues aware economist will tell you that they agree a level playing field is what all good things flow from. That’s all we’re asking for. I want a Democrat in Congress to show me how they aren’t keeping at bay the level playing field.

We’re at the beginning of the fight and wikipedia is showing that we can win over our collective hearts and minds.
Published on FireDogLake’s The Seminal here.