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Swiftboating finance reform

Robert Reich, professor of public policy | April 28, 2010

Republicans have been 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.

Robert Reich publishes the Robert Reich  blog