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Richard Zombeck Headshot

Scott Brown Has Put the People's Seat Up For Sale

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Now that Scott Brown has managed to score the same backroom deals he opposed during his campaign run for Senator of Massachusetts he's threatening to vote against the financial reform bill he's said he was for. Sound confusing? It really isn't when you consider Brown is among the top five congressional recipients of "contributions" from the finance/insurance/real estate industry.

An impressive rank to have achieved compared to the other four who have spent years in the Senate.

The usual story of Scott Brown's election to the Senate in MA is that he was put there to kill health care reform. But all the money he's getting from the finance industry makes it clear that they may be hoping he will also be the 41st Republican to kill financial reform. According to his profile on OpenSecrets.org all of his top campaign contributors are financial companies.

In April of this this year, Brown was asked for his opinion on the financial regulatory reform bill. "I can't support it,'' he said.

When asked what areas he thought should be fixed, he replied: "Well, what areas do you think should be fixed? I mean, you know, tell me. And then I'll get a team and go fix it," he said, talking to a reporter who wanted to know what kind of changes he hoped to see.

Brown said one of his main concerns is that the legislation is "going to be an extra layer of regulation," which is true. That's the point of the legislation. The financial industry nearly destroyed the global economy as a result of lacking regulation. That's why this legislation is being argued: to bring oversight and accountability through regulation.

Brown went on to say that he finds the notion of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency problematic because "it's more government." He added, "Is that good? ... If it's an area we need to fix, then I'm certainly open to it. But I haven't heard that that's the biggest thing that's problematic with it."

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill), has been quoted repeatedly as saying, "And 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."

Brown, who has, by his own admission, carved out deals for Fidelity Investments, State Street, and MassMutual, among other Massachusetts based financial institutions can't make Durbin's point any clearer. In addition he's argued for major loopholes in the Volker Rule that would allow firms to continue to gamble with taxpayer-backed capital.

In the meantime, Brown recently blocked a bill extending unemployment. As a result of this vote 1.2 million people lost access to the extended unemployment benefits. Several hundred thousand are being added to that number every week. Fifty million Medicare claims from June are currently in process at the reduced rate, according to AARP.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that dropping the $24 billion in aid to states will lead to cuts in services and thousands of layoffs, and that spending cuts to close states' aggregate budget shortfall  in 2011 would lead to 900,000 public- and private-sector layoffs.

On a Tuesday morning WBUR interview with Deborah Becker, Barry Bluestone, dean of the School of Social Sciences, Urban Affairs and Public Policy at Northeastern University, speculated that over two million people will be without benefits once the program expires. According to Bluestone, 10,000 people will lose crucial funds every week in Massachusetts alone.

This decision sparked a rally on Monday in front of his Boston office by an estimated 500 protester representing dozens of activist, education, and labor organizations urging Brown to stop blocking a vote on the FMAP bill, containing $700 Million in federal relief.

"Let Senator McConnell, let Senator Collins, let Senator Brown and every other Republican explain why one of their own constituents doesn't deserve to keep their job, shouldn't be able to send their kid to college, can't put food on their table without maxing out their credit cards," said Lori Lodes an employment and labor activists with SEIU. "Rooting against America, Republicans are taking pride in keeping families out of work as their only strategy for winning elections."

Brown's latest argument and rhetoric when it comes to financial reform is that the fees and assessments that the bill requires banks to pay amount to a tax and that he has vowed never to vote for a tax increase.

Of course when Massachusetts residents voted for him they were assuming he meant their taxes, not those of Wall Street.

Statements like those make it apparent that Brown is no less confused by financial reform than he was in April during an interview with the Boston Globe or when I and other Bay-State activists met with his staffer Nat Hoopes in D.C. and were told the only things in the bill Brown was opposed to was the so called "slush fund" in respect to the resolution authority designed to ensure that the banks themselves - not the taxpayers will have to pay for future failings. Now, according to Brown, it's a "tax".

Brown and others in the GOP can call it a tax as much as they want. The truth, which they seem to conveniently avoid, is that it is a fee of $3-4 Billion per year (less than 10 percent of their yearly bonuses) to be collected until the sum reaches $20 Billion. After 25 years the fund would go towards the deficit. A small price to pay for an $800 billion tax-payer bailout and having almost brought the world economy to its knees.

Any time someone alludes to Brown having filled or taken Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat, Brown quickly responds coyly with, "it's the people's seat."

It's become apparent that the people's seat is for sale.