That Washington

Wall Street Reformer Cantwell Responds to Wall Street Protests

By Josh Feit October 13, 2011

US Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) has been one of the sharpest critics of Wall Street malfeasance and one of the most adamant advocates for regulatory reform.

She was also one of the few senators—Democratic or Republican—to vote against the bank bailouts. (Watch her dissident floor speech here.)

Cantwell seemed positioned, in 2009, to lead the Democratic rejoinder to the Tea Party, as a detail-oriented populist who was addressing some of the same issues that the mad-as-hell Tea Party crowd were rallying around, but with a much different response: strict regulations on Wall Street.

However, her big push to re-institute the Glass-Steagall Act (a firewall between commercial and investment banking) and her fight for on-the-books rules governing risky derivative markets were sidelined in the big financial reform package.

In retrospect, her strong dissident rhetoric (she was constantly at odds with her own party's then-popular president and his treasury secretary Timothy Geithner) was a clear precursor to the class-conscious 99 Percenter movement.

I hadn't seen any reaction from Sen. Cantwell, though, to the mass Wall Street protests. This morning, after the arrests at Seattle's kindred protests in Westlake, I asked Cantwell for her response to the 99 Percenter rallies.

Here's what I got from her spokesman, Jared Leopold:
Main Street continues to pay the price for Wall Street’s risky business. Senator Cantwell believes we cannot allow Wall Street’s shenanigans to take down our economy again. She continues to fight for more transparency in the derivatives markets, ending ‘too big to fail’ and separating commercial from investment banking.

I also asked for US Sen. Patty Murray's response. Murray, of course, is a central player in the current deficit reduction talks which put her squarely in the sites of the 99 Percenters who have decried the cuts approach to the federal government's recessionary budget woes.

Murray's press person Eli Zupnick told PubliCola:
Senator Murray understands the frustration that is driving these protests in Seattle and across the country. So many workers and middle class families have been devastated in this economic crisis, and most Americans agree that it’s only fair that big corporations and the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share and share in the sacrifice this moment requires.

Neither Cantwell nor Murray appear to have much in common with the 99 Percenters, with net worths estimated between $2 million and $10 million and $400,000 and $1 million, respectively.

Back in 2009, I  asked Cantwell about the rift between her financial status and her populist cred, and she told me this:
I don’t think it stopped Ted Kennedy and it doesn’t stop me. It’s about digging in on what some of these issues are. Consolidation of banking  is going to create continued havoc if we don’t fix this.
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