These tools of corporate banking should be ashamed of themselves: Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Mark Warner (D-Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), all members of the Senate Banking Committee, plus Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.).
Five Democratic senators have told the White House they won't support Saule Omarova to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, effectively killing her nomination for the powerful bank-regulator position.
Why it matters: The defiant opposition from a broad coalition of senators reflects the real policy concerns they had with Omarova, a Cornell University law professor who's attracted controversy for her academic writings about hemming in big banks.
- Their opposition also hints at a willingness of some Democratic senators to buck the White House on an important nomination, even if it hands Republicans a political — and symbolic — victory.
- Republicans have attacked the Kazakh-born scholar in remarkably personal terms, and turned her nomination into a proxy battle over how banks should be regulated.
Driving the news: In phone call on Wednesday, Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), all members of the Senate Banking Committee, told Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) — the panel's chairman — of their opposition.
- They're joined in opposing her by Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.).
- The five senators' offices either declined to comment or did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Biden nominee for Currency Comptroller does threaten to make more obvious the power of oligarchs over the US economy. This makes the GOP nervous. All they have is juvenile red-baiting that RW media is amplifying, making it even more anachronistic in a Putin era that has GOP senators spending July 4th weekends in the non-Idaho Moscow.
The counterfactual is that if Omarova looked differently, and had a US public school education, there wouldn’t be the xenophobic, misogynistic discourse of her nomination hearings. It’s all too laughable but there is a RWNJ audience for that messaging:
- Daily Caller: “Has Joe Biden Really Nominated A Marxist To Regulate Our Banks?”
Darn that Bush administration giving her a chance as a treasury official, but now we’re in a very new era of a traitorous GOP Senate. And no, “banking as we know it” is not going to end, and a Currency Comptroller is not going to do it, regardless. The real problems lie in corruption like the money laundering and tax evasion that is the norm for modern capitalism. The end of banking will come when tools like Kennedy give up the Mister Haney impression from Green Acres and act slightly better than Mister Drysdale, the banker of Beverly Hillbillies.
Conservative media have revived the 1950s McCarthyite smear campaign with Biden’s nominee for comptroller of the currency, Saule Omarova. Drawing on Omarova’s birthplace in the then-USSR and her academic associations with the Moscow State University, where she matriculated, the right-wing has painted her as a Soviet communist.
Omarova has denounced communism and told the Financial Times about how her family was victimized by the Soviet regime, including her grandmother’s family, which, according Omarova, “was destroyed because they were educated Kazakhs who didn’t join the party.” Nevertheless, right-wing media chose to focus on one aspect of her personal history: Omarova attended the Moscow State University on a scholarship named after Soviet leader Vladmir Lenin and wrote a thesis on Marxist analysis.
Mainstream right-leaning papers like The Wall Street Journal have been linking her ideas on how to shape banking into a more equitable industry to her history in the USSR. In a Journal op-ed, "Comptroller of the Economy," the editorial board cherry-picked from a paper Omarova wrote last year -- titled “The People’s Ledger: How to Democratize Money and Finance the Economy” -- to paint her as someone clinging on to communist ideology. Citing Omarova's line from the paper that the ideas in it will "'end banking' as we know it," the Journal sought to slam her as a radical. However, as MSNBC points out, “That phrase is a play on another author’s book title, which Omarova makes clear in the footnote.” The Journal’s op-ed continued, “Thirty years later, she still believes the Soviet economic system was superior, and that U.S. banking should be remade in the Gosbank’s image.”
The bad faith understanding of Omarova’s views and policy proposals is clear within right-wing media, which are seeking to misrepresent and slander her for her progressive banking policies. Right-wing TV news has been rife with unfair and biased coverage of Omarova that seems to purposefully ignore the content of her ideas:
- One America News Network's Kara McKinney claimed on her show The Tipping Point that the Democrats were supporting “mass-murdering Soviet Union commies” with Omarova's nomination.
- America’s Newsroom co-anchor Bill Hemmer repeated the Journal’s claim on Fox News that “Saule Omarova wants to abolish the bank she is being appointed to regulate,” noting that she was “educated in the former Soviet Union” and that she has “tweeted about the virtues of a communist system.”
- Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth noted that Omarova is a graduate of Moscow State University and that she “wrote a thesis there on Marxism, which they are trying to get unsealed but they haven't been able to read yet,” adding, “You have a comptroller of the currency who likes the USSR more.”
- Fox News' Special Report anchor Bret Baier highlighted Omarova’s past, saying, “She has a history writing about Marxism, calling the banking industry she would regulate in her potential new job, we paraphrase here, the quintessential A-hole industry, and advocating for an end to banking as we know it.”
Fox News contributor James Freeman, an assistant editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, called Omarova a “parody of a left-wing activist” who “wants to end banking as we know it.”
When people outside Louisiana ask me about Kennedy, I tell them he’s not the folksy bumpkin you see on TV, but a wealthy, well-educated attorney with an Oxford degree. Just like Pat Buttram, who portrayed Mr. Haney in “Green Acres,” Kennedy is acting. He’s a shape-shifting, attention-hungry politician who found a role — wily country boy — that brings him some fame.
Since the days of Huey Long, Louisiana has celebrated its brash, entertaining and clever politicians. But Kennedy’s latest media splash was not clever. It was entertaining only to those who enjoy cruelty and xenophobia. It was conduct that, until recently, might have earned Kennedy criticism from some members of his party. The pre-2017 Kennedy would have abhorred it.
What troubles me about Kennedy’s latest stunt is not just what it revealed about a politician doing what some unprincipled, opportunistic politicians have always done. What bothers me more is what it says about Louisiana politics, and today’s Republican Party, that Kennedy could expose himself as a xenophobic demagogue and pay no price for it.
Saule Omarova (Kazakh: Сәуле Омарова; born 1966) is a Kazakh-American attorney, academic, and public policy advisor who was nominated to serve as Comptroller of the Currency by President Joe Biden.
Omarova graduated from Moscow State University in 1989 on the Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship. Her thesis from MSU is titled Karl Marx’s Economic Analysis and the Theory of Revolution in The Capital. Omarova moved to the United States in 1991, where she received a Ph.D in political science from the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW), and a J.D. degree from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. At UW, Omarova defended her thesis, The Political Economy of Oil in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan.