Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren drew a red line on Friday for 2016 presidential candidates, calling for them to commit to end the so-called “revolving door” between Wall Street and the Cabinet.
The firebrand populist said specifically that all the presidential candidates should support Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s bill introduced this week that would prohibit bonuses for Wall Street executives who take government jobs.
“Anyone who wants to be President should appoint only people who have already demonstrated they are independent, who have already demonstrated that they can hold giant banks accountable,” said Warren, speaking in Phoenix at Netroots Nation, a convention of liberal activists.
While the call to action was aimed at everyone running in 2016, its clearest target was Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who is courting the very types of progressive activists in the audience in both the primary and general election.
Baldwin, who in January 2013 became the first openly gay individual to serve in the U.S. Senate, herself may be carving out a significant role addressing the vast inequities of wealth in the nation.
Last year she sponsored a bill which according to a press release "would force the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the federal agency that regulates oil markets, to use all of its authority, including its emergency powers, to eliminate excessive oil speculation." It is co-sponsored by Senators Levin of Michigan, Nelson of Florida, Cardin of Maryland, Franken of Minnesota, Bluemnthal of Connecticut, Brown of Ohio, Shaheen of New Hampshire, Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Merkley of Oregon, Markey of Massachusetts, Hirono of Hawaii, and in an upset, Klobuchar of Minnesota and McCaskill of Missouri.
A press release from June reveals that she recently has introduced a bill which "would end the carried interest loophole and ensure that other people's money is taxed at the same ordinary income tax rates as that of the vast majority of Americans." It is co-sponsored by Senators Franken of Minnesota, Whitehouse and Reed of Rhode Island, Hirono of Hawaii, Manchin of West Virginia, Sanders of Vermont, Blumenthal, and of course, Warren.
And as Senator Warren described (video below; segment beginning at approximately 25:20) at Netroots Nation, Senator Baldwin now has introduced the Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act, which would "help ensure that conflicts of interest do not erode the effectiveness of financial regulators." The details are here but among other things it would "prohibit government employees from accepting bonuses from their former private sector employers for entering government service" and would "require senior financial service regulators to recuse themselves from any official actions that directly or substantially benefit the former employers or clients for whom they worked in the previous two years before joining federal service. " It is co-sponsored b Senators Schatz of Hawaii, Cummings of Maryland and of course, Warren.
While Senator Warren did not refer to any member of Congress other than Baldwin, she was (as Time suggested) clearly sending a message to the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton. Clinton's endorsement of the Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act would not only help allay concerns among the activist left, but also be of some comfort to the Massachusetts senator, who otherwise could prove to be a major thorn in the side of the former Secretary of State.
Mrs. Clinton likes to speak of bipartisanship, as her 2008 rival also did, until he became persuaded of the futility of reaching compromise with an adversary that views such an effort only as weakness. So Clinton's endorsement of this latest, valiant effort by Baldwin may carry particular significance. Warren says it "would throw some heavy sand into the gears of the revolving door. And it's a bill that a presidential candidate should be able to cheer for."T
There is a total of 17 Senators who have signed off on one or more of these progressive pieces of legislation. It will not surprise you that none is a Republican, that all are Democrats. It should be an easy call for Hillary Clinton.
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