By Jeff Connaughton, the chief of staff to Senator Ted Kaufman during the financial reform fight in 2009-2010 and author of the book The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins. He’s now retired from politics and lives in Savannah, Georgia.
This is fundraising week for Naked Capitalism. You’ll see below why I’m here to help. If you planned to give and haven’t gotten to it yet, please do so here, right now.
I started reading Naked Capitalism right after the financial crisis, and I continue to read it every day.
During 2009-10, when I was chief of staff to then Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE), I was struck by how little information and analysis government bodies were producing about the causes and needed solutions to the financial crisis. In the summer of 2009, a White House working group produced its white paper, which included some good things but mainly proposed what amounted to a reshuffling of the regulatory deck; at the same time, the Senate Banking Committee stayed mostly quiet throughout 2009 as most senators stayed focused on healthcare reform and other issues. Even well into the spring of 2010, it was like Waiting for Godot. Finally, Ted Kaufman couldn’t wait any longer, so he started going to the Senate floor to make blistering speeches about the failures on Wall Street and in regulatory and law enforcement agencies.
No one told us what to think. We actually had to figure that out on our own! It’s no laughing matter to say that as I look back on my 23 years in Washington (12 of which were as a corporate lobbyist), those months in the winter and sSpring of 2010 were truly a rarity in that way. As I said last year in a speech at the invitation of Larry Lessig at the Harvard Safra School of Ethics:
When you’re on K Street, you feel like your part of an army, with a navy, air force, marines and CIA to help you. From K Street, you have almost complete transparency into the bill drafting process. And I was often in the loop with the person writing the legislation, or reacting to drafts.
In contrast, when you’re a reformer in Congress, you feel almost alone – until eventually and when it’s too late you team up with a small band of brothers and sisters for a fight in which the public interest is completely outgunned.
That was when NC and other independent sources of information and analysis proved invaluable to me and other reformers in the policy apparatus. NC consistently has stayed far ahead of the curve and often has proved the first to be correct when hindsight and a broadening consensus eventually help others to find the courage to agree.
For years, every day, NC has been a fierce, independent voice that has helped lay the foundations for and illuminate countless financial and economic policy debates. I’ve already given a big donation to support Naked Capitalism. If you are a regular reader and have the wherewithal to do so, please dig deep now and make your contribution here.
The financial crisis was a shattering experience for tens of millions of Americans. Yet so far one major political party has played virtually no role in helping to formulate policy answers to the many questions the crisis raised about a rotted legal and regulatory system. While the Democratic Party — as the party primarily in power for the past seven years — has been riven by whether President Obama, the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, regulators and Congress have done close to enough in response. We’ll soon hear even more definitive answers on these issues from Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Hillary Clinton and other Democratic presidential candidates. We may not hear much on point from the Republican presidential contenders, but perhaps we will.
I’ve never stopped reading NC, every day. It’s one of the proverbial pebbles dropped into the water, and now its ripples are making their way to Iowa, the first caucus state, and New Hampshire and other early primary states. If you can’t afford much, please give what you can, here. If you can afford more, give more. If you can give a lot, give a lot. You are investing in creating a different debate, a different society, and a different culture I fervently hope those ripples will become a powerful wave of voters who demand genuine change.