Sunday, October 31, 2010


Despite His Mega-million-dollar ad campaign to the contrary, Gary Peters is not as he seems. In his bid to hold on to his first-term congressional seat in a race that’s been handicapped as one of the closest, most competitive in the nation, Mr. Peters is projecting himself to be the champion of Main Street and the tough watchdog protecting our interests against big banks, Wall Street and other assorted “sinister” outside influences.

But Mr. Peters is not as chaste as he would have you believe. Just in time for Halloween comes an expose ( from the Pulitzer Prize-winning news organization, ProPublica that is ripping off his masquerade as the guardian of mainstream America against the excesses of greedy banks, Wall Street, Big Pharma and special interests.

ProPublica published a blockbuster investigation of the 69 New Democrats, of which Peters is a member. The expose documents how the New Democrats have raked in millions from the very same “fat cat” lobbyists they decry in public and how they have wielded their congressional clout as payback, weakening important financial and consumer reforms.

“In the past year and a half, New Democrats have pulled in more than $18 million in campaign contributions from their lobbyist fundraising network. The lobbyists, in turn, have mingled with lawmakers and their staffers at least 850 times during fundraising events and informal get-togethers,” ProPublica reports. In the past two years, since the start of the 2008 election cycle, the financial industry has donated $24.9 million to members of the New Democrats, according to a Business Week profile of the New Democrats.

Peters himself has profited handsomely from his membership in the New Democrats, pulling in close to half of his PAC donations (from 1/1/2009 through 09/30/2010) from interests which also donated to the New Democrats. Peters and his New Democrat colleagues refused to be interviewed for the story, the reporters note.

At the bidding of these special interests, according to the articles, the members of the New Democrats Coalition, several of whom, like Gary Peters, sit on the House Financial Services Committee, have watered down financial regulatory reform, fought to ensure that banks receiving TARP money didn’t have to trim executive bonuses and helped block a proposal to allow bankruptcy judges to adjust home mortgages — a move many experts say could have mitigated the wave of foreclosures. Records show The National Association of Realtors PAC donated more than $403,000 to the New Democrats according to ProPublica.

The New Democrats tapped Peters because he had the perfect resume, having made his living as a Wall Street insider with 23 years combined experience as an executive at Merrill Lynch and Paine Webber. But nowhere is this background to be found in Peters’ ads or on his campaign website where his focus paradoxically is “cracking down on Wall Street.”

Peters was also named as one of three House conferees selected to hammer out the final financial reform bill while the leadership of the New Democrats “worked behind the scenes to make sure the interests of the New Democrats and their allies were represented” ProPublica reported.

Both the ProPublica and Business Week accounts chronicle how the New Democrats also played a decisive role during the healthcare reform debate, delivering a win for Big Pharma and biotechnologies on a class of medicines called biologics used to treat cancer, anemia and arthritis. At stake was the period of patent protection during which cheaper generics would be prevented from competing. The biologics industry wanted to keep the patent window at 12 years; the Administration pressed for seven years following a Federal Trade Commission report concluding that the 12-year monopoly was “too long.” Ultimately, the New Democrats threw their “full weight” lobbying their party leadership and prevailed for Big Pharma, sliding through the 12-year patent protection.

The New Dems were also instrumental in shaping regulations for over-the-counter derivatives, the largely unregulated, complex financial products that were at the epicenter of the global financial meltdown. According to the Business Week report, a full-court press by the major investment banks and a consortium of businesses leaned hard on the New Democrats to ease up on the Administration’s insistence that derivates be moved to regulated trading platforms to prevent “reckless behavior on Wall Street.” The recommendations advanced by the New Dems “created a loophole that would allow risky and unregulated derivates trading” the head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission warned, ProPublica reported.

Despite pitched back-room dealing, the New Dems’ derivatives exemptions were scrapped in House/Senate conference. And while the New Dems didn’t produce for Wall Street as it had hoped on this particular issue, “the group helped make the overall bill more palatable to the financial industry by forcing concessions on multiple fronts,” ProPublica reports.

So, even though the New Democrats — including Gary Peters — “helped block or water down measures proposed by the White House and Democratic leaders, many of its members are receiving cash infusions and strong support from party institutions like the DCCC,” ProPublica explains. It’s no wonder that the DCCC has just dumped $497,000 in last minute advertising buys for Peters, making him among the top 10 recipients of the DCCC’s 11th-hour giving.

It is troubling indeed that Peters, who portrays himself as a crusader for “Main Street” against the excesses of “Wall Street” is himself compromised by these apparent conflicts of interest, as exposed by ProPublica. Mr. Peters needs to come clean to his constituency immediately about his role in the New Democrats bloc.


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