03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Don't Mess With Maria

In the showdown over regulation of potentially toxic securities like credit-default swaps, the savviest and toughest battler for effective legislation turns out to be not Barney Frank or Chris Dodd, who chair the key House and Senate financial committees. Surprisingly, the best informed and most relentless crusader is not a committee chair at all but a back-bench Senator from Washington state, Maria Cantwell. If you want to see how one determined junior legislator can make a difference, Cantwell is your woman.

Cantwell, a big booster of Barack Obama, is bewildered by the question of why his administration has not pushed for more fundamental reforms to the financial system. "If there are people at the Treasury and the White House who think that the way to get the economy going again is not to close these loopholes," she told me in an interview, "that's disgusting."

Cantwell, who just turned 51, tends to win arguments not with bluster or horse-trading but with deep knowledge of her subject and a refusal to be bluffed or to back down.

Read the full feature piece from The American Prospect.

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