John McCain once said, "I am a deregulator. I believe in deregulation." Those words have come back to haunt him this week. More importantly, this deregulatory approach he espoused over decades in Congress has left Wall Street unchecked and now teetering, with more than just "storied" investment houses at risk.
McCain quickly switched to another tune to respond to current events. On the campaign stump, he said he and Governor Sarah Palin, if elected, would "put an end to the reckless conduct, corruption, and unbridled greed that have caused a crisis on Wall Street."
He's right about the cause of the crisis, but the recklessness, corruption, and greed also happened about 225 miles or so to south, in Washington. And it hits very, very close to home for McCain.
The real reckless conduct was by our elected officials. For years, politicians have had a hands-off approach to cracking down on the "unbridled greed" Wall Street, and placing sensible checks on our financial markets. McCain himself claims "a long record in support of deregulation," as he told the St. Petersburg Times a few years back.
The real corruption is of our elected officials who depend on large campaign contributions from Wall Street. McCain himself has received $24.3 million from the financial, insurance, and banking industries over his career, according to a Campaign Money Watch analysis of data obtained from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. More than $14 million of that came since he sewed up the nomination in March this year.
The real unbridled greed was found in the legions of Wall Street's lobbyists who worked to deregulate the insurance and finance industries, and prevented any serious consideration of oversight. In fact, 84 lobbyists for the financial, insurance, and banking industry, by Campaign Money Watch's count, are aiding Senator McCain's presidential campaign as bundlers of campaign contributions, advisors on policies (like, ummm, how to respond to this crisis), or staff members. These 84 lobbyists have made $109 million in lobbying fees from their clients in these industries over the last ten years. Unbridled, indeed.
Politicians of every stripe are casting blame about as the news worsens on this crisis on Wall Street. They need to look in the mirror. Let's be clear: when politicians like John McCain start puffing up his populist rhetoric, he's covering up that he helped cause this problem. And so did the big donors who are filling his coffers and the lobbyists who run his campaign.
Will he really be able to "put an end to the reckless conduct, corruption, and unbridled greed that have caused a crisis on Wall Street" when he's so dependent on their lobbyists and campaign cash to get elected? Yeah, right.
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