One of the amazing things about the looming retirement of Rep. John Boehner is the lack of attention paid to his career-long fealty to K Street -- the address where most of the lobbyists have offices. While he's seen as a moderate, affable crybaby, in reality he was owned by lobbyists, including the student loan industry. As I observed in my book, when Boehner was chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, loan-industry officials succeeded in getting him to draft legislation that would end the ability for borrowers to lock in a low-fixed interest rate for up to 30 years and make it more difficult for borrowers to extend their payment period without refinancing their loans.
With the first Democratic Presidential debate scheduled, what's even worse is that the media isn't digging beneath Democratic Nation Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz's refusal to sanction more than six presidential debates -- compared to a total of nine for Republicans. To enforce the limit, Wasserman Schultz will bar any candidates who take part in debates that aren't sponsored by the DNC from participating in future DNC-sanctioned events. That provision, called an "exclusivity" clause, is intended to bring more order to a process that can spin out of control, she said.
Really? Most likely President Obama would disagree. In the 2008 Democratic presidential primary race, the candidates debated 17 times before the then-senator wrapped up the nomination, despite the fact that Hillary was originally the frontrunner, according to the University of California, Santa Barbara's American Presidency Project.
Very likely the reason for limiting the debates is to lower the opportunity for the more grassroots anti-Wall Street candidates such as Gov. Martin O'Malley (who I'm supporting), Sen. Bernie Sanders and Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig to confront Clinton and Joe Biden on their fealty to Wall Street.
When Clinton was first lady and now-Senator Elizabeth Warren was a Harvard law professor, Warren was able to get Clinton to convince her then-POTUS husband to veto a GOP-sponsored bankruptcy bill. Warren described the bill as a travesty designed to squeeze "the last couple-tenths of a percent" profit out of hard-pressed women and children who had fallen on tough times as a result of divorce, financial ruin or medical catastrophe.
However, three years later, when Clinton was the junior senator from New York, she voted in favor of a "modified" version that provided limited protections for women and children over the vehement objections of Warren and other consumer advocates. The reason for her switch? Contributions from Wall Street. During her two terms as a New York senator, Clinton collected more money from the finance, insurance and real estate Industry than any other member of Congress: more than $31 million -- a hugely hefty sum given that she was only in office for eight years.
After the bill passed, when Clinton was running for president in 2007 she glossed over that "yes" vote and claimed, during debates, that she "fought the banks" on bankruptcy reform. Warren has complained about it ever since, one of the reasons Bill Clinton refused to campaign for her during her 2012 Senate campaign. Another is Warren's attacks on Clinton's former Wall Street allies, a former Clinton aide told Politico.
As former presidential candidate (and Alaska Senator) Mike Gravel put it, "The Democratic Party used to stand for the ordinary working man. But the Clintons and the DLC (Democratic Leadership Council) sold out the Democratic party to Wall Street."
Joe Biden, who has yet to declare his intentions, is in a similar predicament. As senator, Biden also voted for the bankruptcy bill. And that vote haunted him in the coming years, as he ran for vice president. As journalist David Cay Johnston asked of Biden in a 2008 piece, "How does the 2005 bankruptcy law fulfill your Constitutional duty to 'promote the general welfare, as it applies to those who through accident, serious illness or layoffs cannot repay their unsecured debts? How does it help resolve the current mortgage crisis?"
Another problem that arose for Biden in the 2008 race was that then Delaware-headquartered bank MBNA was the most generous donor to Biden's campaigns from 1989 through the 2010 race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Contrast Biden and Clinton with Sanders, who is a co-sponsor of legislation authored by Senators Warren and John McCain that would reinstate the Glass Steagall law that separated banking, insurance and brokerage activities, which was essentially repealed when Bill Clinton signed the Financial Services Modernization Act into law. And O'Malley, who has laid out specific strategies, including instituting a three-year revolving door ban that would discourage regulators from working for a company they previously regulated, and requiring that law-breaking bank executives admit guilt and go to jail, rather than merely paying a penalty, along with reinstating Glass-Steagall.
What's more, Wasserman Schultz also appears to be limiting the number of candidates who can debate, not just the number of debates. According to Lawrence Lessig, despite the fact that... "candidates that poll at 1 percent nationally in at least three separate polls earn an invitation... the DNC still has not formally welcomed me into the race... Yet when I tried to talk about this with... Schultz, she scheduled a call, but then cancelled it."
One of Lessig's major goals as president would be to pass what he calls the Citizen Equality Act, which would make voting easier by creating automatic registration and move voting to a national holiday; end gerrymandering, which resulted in the Republicans taking the House of Representatives, despite receiving nearly 1.4 million fewer votes than Democratic candidates; and create citizen-funded elections by giving every voter a voucher to contribute to a campaign.
By capping the number of debates, some Democratic officials believe Wasserman Schultz is protecting Clinton, which wouldn't be surprising, given that she was a co-chairwoman of Mrs. Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.
Boyd Brown, a DNC member and former South Carolina state legislator, said in an interview "This process was rigged in favor of one particular candidate, and the leadership of the party should be embarrassed by that."
Some may contend that Democrats should support Clinton since she has recently done an about-face on Wall Street as exemplified by last Thursday's announcement that she wants to extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting financial crimes. All I can say, is "Oh, please!" Her about-face didn't come about from a change of mind or heart but the realization that she'll be hammered in tomorrow's debates if she doesn't reverse her fealty to the financial industry.
At least one Wall Street lawyer is openly hoping either Hillary or Biden are frontrunners.
"If it turns out to be Jeb (Bush) versus Hillary we would love that and either outcome would be fine," the lawyer told a Politico reporter in 2014. "We could live with either one. Jeb versus Joe Biden would also be fine."
Rest assured that the status quo won't be changed unless true-blue voters keep the Democrats-In-Name-Only bums out of office.