Senator Elizabeth Warren was in South Boston on Sunday for the annual St. Patrick's Day Breakfast -- with Secretary of State John Kerry’s departure already the state’s senior senator after just three months in office -- she beat a hasty retreat to the exit door, but not before bringing down the house with jabs at fellow politicians.
“To tell you truth, I’ve considered myself the senior senator ever since Howie Carr called me Granny. Thank you, Howie,” said Warren in a kelly green jacket.
“I was going to wear a big ‘Kiss me I’m Irish’ button today, but Lord only knows what the Herald would have said,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren told the crowd at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, referencing the right-wing tabloid’s coverage of her avowed Native American ancestry.
Warren continued to throw out zingers during the breakfast, which is traditionally an excuse for the state’s top politicians to make fun of each other publicly as well as participate in the St. Patrick’s Day festivities, saying, “This is the day we remember St. Patrick, who legend has it drove the snakes out of Ireland. Unfortunately, too many of them went to Wall Street.”
Warren even got in a dig at state Rep. Dan Winslow, of Norfolk.
“I advise everyone to pay very close attention to Dan Winslow’s platform,” Warren said. “He has a 100 percent ranking from the gun lobby and he’s for the legalization of marijuana. He wants us armed and stoned.”
Once again, Senator Elizabeth Warren asks the most obvious question -- why aren't banks prosecuted? -- only to get the same incredulous responses. What? Prosecute the banks? No way!
Warren took bank regulators to task on Thursday about the fact that British bank HSBC is still doing business in the U.S., with no criminal charges filed against it, despite confessing to what one regulator called "egregious" money laundering violations.
Money laundering was a major focus of U.S. counterterrorism policy after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The Patriot Act of 2002 included provisions that required the Treasury Department to identify banks and individuals suspected of links to terrorism. And the law instructed banks to strictly monitor and report potentially illegal transactions.
"They did it over and over and over again across a period of years. And they were caught doing it, warned not to do it and kept right on doing it, and evidently making profits doing it," Warren said of HSBC. "How many billions of dollars do you have to launder for drug lords and how many economic sanctions do you have to violate before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution like this?"
The regulator she was questioning, David Cohen, the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, repeatedly refused to answer the question. Like other regulators at the hearing, he said that his department has no authority to shut down a bank unless the Justice Department convicts the bank of a crime.
Warren said: “If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, chances are good you’re going to go to jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life. But evidentially, if you laundered nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violated our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night -- every single individual associated with this. And I just -- I think that’s fundamentally wrong.”
The issue is part of a broader debate over large financial institutions and whether they are too big to be broken up. The Massachusetts senator’s comments come after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged Wednesday that some of the largest banks are too big to prosecute and that prosecution could have a negative impact on the U.S. and global economies.
Speaking before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Holder said he is concerned that the size of some of these institutions “becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.”
Holder added that “I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.”
It is far past time for someone to "indicate" to Mr. Holder that he needs to prosecute the criminal banks, or someone will show him to the door.
“I’m pleased Professor Warren has joined with me in signing my People’s Pledge,” Brown said in a statement after after putting his own signature on a signed pledge forwarded to him earlier in the morning by Warren.
“This is a great victory for the people of Massachusetts, and a bold statement that puts super PACs and other third parties on notice that their interference in this race will not be tolerated. This historic agreement means the candidates will be in control of their own campaigns and accountable for what is said,” he added.
In her own statement, Warren heralded the achievement reflected by the agreement.
“I appreciate Scott Brown’s quick and affirmative response to my proposal this morning,” she said. “With our joint agreement, we have now moved beyond talk to real action to stop advertising from third-party groups. But both campaigns will need to remain vigilant to ensure that outside groups do not try to circumvent what is an historic agreement. This can give Massachusetts voters a clear choice come Election Day.”
The most difficult aspect of the agreed ban will be enforcement. The agreement included sending a joint letter asking broadcasters to turn down third-party ads, but the ad revenue is worth millions, and not likely to be turned away.
Ed Piette, president and general manager of WBZ-TV and myTV38, said on Friday that television stations have the right to reject issue ads and political action committee ads. But although he had yet to review the campaigns’ pending request, he does not expect to turn down ads to satisfy their agreement.
“We’re a broadcaster,” he said. “We’re not in politics.”
He added: “We don’t get involved in the politics of politics, and that’s what this is all about.”
Its been estimated that each candidate will spend approximately $20 million during the campaign, and another $20 million from special interest groups for a total of $60 million. The third-party efforts, "527's" or "super PAC's" can be funded by wealthy, anonymous donors who are not directly accountable to the candidates.
A previous agreement between John Kerry and William Weld in 1996 to limit campaign ad spending failed during that Massachusetts senate race.