Former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) defended his pro-Wall Street voting record on Saturday at a candidate forum in northwest Iowa.
Delaney, a former finance entrepreneur spending a chunk of his personal fortune on a long-shot presidential run, joined four other Democratic presidential candidates at HuffPost and the Open Markets Institute’s Heartland Forum in Storm Lake, Iowa.
HuffPost’s Zach Carter asked Delaney whether his emphasis on bipartisanship sugarcoated his history of joining Republicans on legislation gutting Wall Street regulations. Carter noted that over the course of his career in Congress, Delaney had received over $2 million from financial firms and their employees.
Delaney stood behind his policy votes, without specifically addressing the suggestion that he might have been compromised by the campaign cash that he received.
Referring specifically to a vote in favor of a May 2018 law exempting a large swath of banks from key provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, Delaney declared, “The things I did in the Dodd-Frank framework were focused on helping community banks, because I think community banks are the backbone of our country.”
In fact, while Republicans and many Democrats insisted that the Dodd-Frank rollback legislation was narrowly tailored to provide relief to community banks, it loosened some regulations for big banks with assets of up to $250 billion.
Carter followed up, asking about votes from Delaney, a former member of the House Financial Services Committee, for legislation to allow banks to fund derivatives from parts of their operations insured by the federal government. The bill, which ultimately became law as part of a budget deal in 2014, would have effectively provided taxpayer subsidies for credit default swaps and other exotic derivatives, which are bets designed to hedge against financial risk.
Without addressing his votes for the specific bill, Delaney again insisted that he was focused on providing relief for small banks.
The Maryland congressman said that the Dodd-Frank reform law was necessary to address the 2008 financial crisis, but imperfect.
“Of course we had to do something really big, but I also believe it is a fundamental responsibility of the Congress and the government to update those transformative laws because you shouldn’t presume you got it right the first time,” he said.
Delaney represented Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, which stretches from affluent Washington suburbs to the state’s rural western panhandle, from 2013 to 2018.
In three terms in Congress, he established himself as solidly in the business-friendly wing of the party, joining the moderate New Democrat Coalition and the No Labels group’s bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.
“It’s ridiculous to say he’s on the side of Wall Street,” said spokesperson Michael Starr Hopkins. “Congressman Delaney has built his career supporting Main Street.” He also said that Delaney supports Dodd-Frank “overall.”
“Any changes to Dodd-Frank that the congressman supported were purely to keep small banks afloat and maintain stability in the rural market place,” he said.
Delaney was the first Democratic presidential candidate to announce a 2020 run, entering the field in July 2017 ― more than a year before any other candidate.
With the help of a personal loan to his campaign of $4.6 million, Delaney has set up a formidable operation in Iowa.
His campaign has struggled to garner national media attention and take off in the polls, however. In a mid-March survey conducted by the Des Moines Register, just one of the 401 Democrats surveyed named him as their first choice.
This article has been updated with information on Delaney’s previous vote for a banking bill.