Eight years ago last week, dangerous behavior by big-bank executives sent our country into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. We have come a long way since, but families here in Pittsburgh and across Pennsylvania are still reeling in its aftermath. For them, the recovery has been made even more difficult by lawmakers who work harder to protect the profits of the financial industry than they do to provide economic security for the middle class.
The best example of a lawmaker more focused on Wall Street than working families is our own Sen. Pat Toomey — a man who made a fortune as a trader at a big investment bank and has spent his 20 years in Washington carrying Wall Street’s water. The loyalties run deep: Mr. Toomey uses his platform of public office to push policies favored by the financial industry, and the financial industry is Mr. Toomey’s top campaign contributor.
Since his election to the Senate, Mr. Toomey, a Republican, has relentlessly tried to tear down reforms Congress made to hold Wall Street accountable after it caused the financial collapse. Mr. Toomey acts as if the Great Recession never happened. In his own memorable words, “I think [Wall Street reform] is a disaster.”
Just last week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — created after the financial collapse — punished the behemoth bank Wells Fargo for systematically scamming customers by creating millions of unauthorized accounts in their names for which they then were charged fees. Because the CFPB was on the case, Wells Fargo will pay a nine-figure fine and reimburse all ensnared victims.
The watchdogs did their job, protecting consumers from a devastating scam and holding the corporate perpetrators to account. But that’s not how Mr. Toomey sees it.
Days after the CFPB’s action against Wells Fargo, Mr. Toomey told reporters that “he would like to see the bureau dismantled.” He went on to say that the consumer protection bureau is a “very ill-conceived and badly governed entity that is not accountable to anyone.”
These are the kind of talking points one would expect from a Wall Street CEO or hedge-fund billionaire, not an elected official responsible for the public interest.
Since the consumer protection bureau was established, Mr. Toomey has been its most stubborn opponent. He’s tried to block confirmation of its director and introduced legislation to deprive CFPB of its independence.
Voters often lament that their choices for elected office amount to a decision between between the devil and the deep blue sea. I understand the frustration with the gridlock and partisanship of Congress. But that’s not the issue in this Senate election. Mr. Toomey’s fanatic fidelity to the financial sector simply runs counter to the interests of most Pennsylvanians, for which his Democratic opponent, Katie McGinty, stands.
Ms. McGinty believes the economy has been rigged by the wealthy and well-connected. She has a comprehensive plan on Wall Street issues that applies her Pennsylvania values. From the outset of her candidacy, she has called for strengthening reforms, ensuring that no bank is too big to fail, and the criminal prosecution of Wall Street executives who have escaped accountability under corporate umbrellas.
Since the Wells Fargo scandal broke, Ms. McGinty has been the counterweight to Mr. Toomey’s indifference. Last Friday, she stood in front of a Wells Fargo bank and called for “clawback” requirements so that banking executives who swindle their clients don’t walk away with massive bonuses. “It’s straightforward,” she said, “people were robbed, crimes were committed, and the bosses of the crooked organizations that hurt those innocent people need to be held to account.