06/23/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Wall Street and the Reform Bandwagon in Congress: Watch Them

Ever since I began my campaign for the U.S. Senate, there's been one subject that raises my ire more than any other--banks and financial institutions that got our money in late 2008 and early 2009. The subject has really bothered me, because I know how unfairly the American people have been treated by these banks with the blessing and even neglect of Congress. "Watch them," I thought.

So I did. But that's not all I did. I started writing. First I called for an oversight body for consumer financial protections in May, almost a year ago, and later that same month, I called for more reform in the credit card industry, like interest rate caps. In June last year, I opposed the bailout of the International Monetary Fund, and in August called for the reform of student loan lending practices. Last October I denounced Wall Street bonuses and called for transparency and stricter regulation of derivatives. That same month I called for federal legislation ban any corporate PAC or corporate executive whose institution received federal bailout dollars from contributing to federal candidates. In February of this year, I wrote about the tangled web of mortgaged backed securities and how it fueled the foreclosure crisis.

I know as a mother and wife, as a former manager of a small law firm, as a former judge who approved or rejected foreclosure lawsuits, as the state record keeper for struggling small businesses and as a consumer, myself, that so much has been wrong in the financial services industry--and so do the American people. That's why they went ballistic when the gargantuan bonuses continued to be paid out to industry CEOs and top money managers even after they received taxpayer money, and even while Americans paid higher fees and rates to credit card companies and banks, made dangerous decisions to keep their credit cards current while they let their mortgages slip and then watched as their credit card limits were lowered evnen as they tried to pay down their credit balances, killing their credit scores.

Finally, last week, Goldman Sachs, a $10 billion beneficiary of TARP money was accused of securities fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission for selling a mortgage investment that was secretly intended to fail. This accusation, made in a civil lawsuit, was the first time that U.S. regulators had taken action against a Wall Street deal that helped investors make money off of the collapse of the housing market. And there is likely more to come . . .

That's when I said to myself again, "Watch them." Only this time it wasn't the banks and finance firms. It was the candidates and members of Congress--especially the ones who'd taken money from the firms they were now vowing to regulate. The rhetoric is heating up. Wagons are circling. Secret meetings are going on between elected officials and banking officials. President Obama is rightly pushing for reform now, but will the members of the Senate take the tough stands? Will the legislation be tough enough?

As you prepare to vote in this election cycle, watch them. Ask yourself, who asks for and takes money from the banks they vow to regulate? I don't--and I won't. One of the major battles I'm ready to take on as a U.S. Senator is to end the dangerous banking practices that led to near system-wide financial collapse in late 2008. When my primary opponent argued in our Cleveland City Club debate last week that he will 'hold Wall Street far more accountable by having a strong robust watchdog consumer agency' to oversee the financial industry,' he failed to mention the dangerous practices that led to the near meltdown of our economy but yet continue today. While presidents of firms like Goldman Sachs continue to spread their largesse, it's unlikely that a member of Congress who receives it will be willing to do more than give lip service and perfunctory attention to real change.

So let them posture, propose and hold secret meetings. But watch them. Then vote what you know--that things need to change and change fast. And the ones who will make it happen are the ones who are free of the money that should never have changed hands in the first place.

Watch them.

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