Swiftboating Finance Reform

Republicans are blocking a Senate vote on the Dodd bill, seeking to build public support by misleading the public. They’re claiming to want a stronger bill when in fact they’re doing the Street’s bidding by seeking a weaker one.

Evidence of their tactics comes in the form of a shady anti-financial reform group called “Stop Too Big To Fail” which today announced a new TV advertising push in three key states. The ad features an out-of-context quote from me to bolster its case to kill financial reform.

As TPMmuckraker has reported, Stop Too Big To Fail is the project of a veteran astroturf operation called Consumers for Competitive Choice, and it’s using the services of an ad agency that worked with the Swift Boat Vets For Truth in 2004. TPMmuckraker says the group has already spent $1.6 million on anti-reform ads and won’t say who’s funding the group’s efforts.

“Stop Too Big To Fail” has previously featured MIT economist Simon Johnson in one of its media conference calls before Johnson realized the goals of the outfit and demanded it stop using his name. Now, “Stop Too Big To Fail” is using me.

I demand it stop using my name.

The new ad, which is running in Virginia, Missouri, and Nevada, claims in a voice-over: “Congress is considering so-called financial reform that gives our government unlimited executive bailout authority. Unlimited bailouts for big banks, paid for by you and me. Even President Clinton’s secretary of labor said, ‘it preserves the possibility that the Fed could launch another bank bailout.’” The ad demands: “No more bailouts with our money.” It finishes by asking viewers to call their senators and ask them to vote against financial reform.

If the message sounds familiar, it is. It’s what we’ve been hearing from Republican opponents of reform in recent weeks: keep talking about bailouts while seeking to kill the reform bill.

If you read my post from two weeks ago that the group cites in the ad, you’ll see I was actually describing the very strategy employed by “Stop Too Big To Fail.” In that post, I critique the Dodd bill as not being tough enough on big banks — but I argue for tougher reform, exactly the opposite of what this group is seeking.

The Swiftboaters are back.

About Robert Reich 545 Articles

Robert Reich is the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

He has served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, as an assistant to the solicitor general in the Ford administration and as head of the Federal Trade Commission's policy planning staff during the Carter administration.

He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine. His weekly commentaries on public radio’s "Marketplace" are heard by nearly five million people.

In 2003, Mr. Reich was awarded the prestigious Vaclev Havel Foundation Prize, by the former Czech president, for his pioneering work in economic and social thought. In 2005, his play, Public Exposure, broke box office records at its world premiere on Cape Cod.

Mr. Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

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