POLITICS
01/14/2015 02:16 pm ET Updated Mar 16, 2015

Chamber Of Commerce Head Criticizes 'Economic Populist' Elizabeth Warren

The Washington Post via Getty Images

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON, Jan 14 (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce charged on Wednesday that Senator Elizabeth Warren and other backers of what he called "economic populism" were actually seeking a state-run economy.

Thomas Donohue, the chamber's president and a top business lobbyist, said he did not think most Americans shared the views of Warren, a liberal Democrat and Wall Street critic who is considered a possible presidential contender. She has denied interest in running for the White House.

"Today we're hearing a lot of talk about so-called economic populism. Its advocates claim they are standing up for the average citizen - but what they really stand for is the unbridled growth of the central government and a state-run economy," Donohue said a speech about American business to the Chamber.

Donohue then told reporters that Warren was one of many "economic populists running around in the Congress" who he said favored more regulation, and even government control, of U.S. companies.

Warren is "a very pleasant woman if you sit down and have a cup of tea with her, or a drink, but we don't share her views on the economy and on where the American economic system ought to be headed," he said at a news conference.

"If she runs for president, I don't think the American people will share her views either."

There was no immediate comment from Warren's office.

Warren, a rising star of the Democratic Party, spearheaded the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after the 2008 financial crisis and is a frequent critic of big banks.

This week she scored a victory when the investment banker she had opposed for a top post at the Treasury Department, Antonio Weiss, withdrew his name from consideration.

Warren opposed Weiss' nomination to the Treasury domestic finance job because of his work for investment bank Lazard, which she and other liberals viewed as proof of a revolving door between Wall Street and the U.S. government.

Donohue scoffed that it was a "very unique idea" that people should not be confirmed for a position because they have experience in the area where they would be assigned.

In recent weeks, Warren has pressured her party to fight Republican-led efforts to scale back the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law. She has frequently questioned whether former bankers make tough regulators.

"American free enterprise is the economic populism we need and must support," Donohue said.

He said the state of U.S. business was improving, but warned that the longer term outlook is less certain because of slow economic growth abroad.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Tom Brown)

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