Jul 1, 2010

Brown Back-Door's Big Deal, Nevermind He's Against That Sort Of Thing

Just in case anyone thinks I'm going light on the Republicans lately, let me share a little story about the new Wonder-Kid, Mr. Super GOP from Massachusetts. In the case of the Republicans, he's just one of the gang now.

You see, Scott Brown owes his election in no small part to the public furor over the so-called Cornhusker Kickback, the backroom deal that Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska struck for his vote to pass the health care bill. Bad, bad, secret backroom deal.

It seems that Scott's following Nelson's example, winning concessions in the financial overhaul bill on behalf of Massachusetts banks.

Scott is wheeling and dealing with both parties and hinting that he just might vote with Democrats if they agree to goodies for financial institutions in his state. How quickly a candidate who campaigned against "closed-door meetings" and "backroom deals" learns to eat at the trough once in office? It's a magical moment. One to celebrate and point to whenever your next 'outsider' campaigns for 'reform' or 'change.'

The Deal:
Brown scored an exemption for home-state interests like Fidelity Investments and the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. from some new restrictions on trading. He also persuaded congressional negotiators to let banks invest up to 3 percent of their capital in private equity funds and hedge funds, a change that would help such banks as Boston-based State Street Corp. Not bad for a freshman.

Then this week, Democrats bowed to a more philosophical demand that knowledgeable officials say was choreographed by Republican leader Mitch McConnell. On Tuesday, Democratic negotiators agreed to remove a $19 billion tax on large banks and hedge funds after Brown threatened to vote "no" because of it.

Brown wouldn't say whether the concession was enough to win his vote. And he made clear that he wouldn't make that decision in time to pass the bill and deliver it to President Barack Obama by Independence Day.

"Over the July recess, I will continue to review this important bill," Brown said in a statement.

Advocates of the bill to rein in Wall Street were casting Brown's dealmaking as a shift from underdog candidate in a pickup truck to something more amorphous. The Massachusetts branch of Americans for Financial Reform planned a news conference to try to present him Thursday with a new BMW.

"Since Sen. Brown is willing to gamble with American consumers, he's sending the signal that he wants to trade in his iconic truck for something a little more luxurious, something more in line with the kinds of cars that his Wall Street cronies are driving," the group said in a press release.

Gail Gitcho, Brown's spokeswoman, defended the senator's actions, describing them as fighting for improvements in the bill for the entire country, not just Massachusetts, and for firms everywhere that didn't contribute to the financial crisis. Right.

Well, it looks like the GOP is back to Bobby Jindal for their next candidate? The guy can't give a speech -- but he's doing a great job on the Gulf Spill. You know, by leading? He's the only guy I see trying to cut the red tape to get to the oil.

Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn and Andrew Miga contributed to this report.

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