Senate races

Warren wades into W.Va. Senate to bash Wall St.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will portray Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as a friend to Wall Street — not West Virginia — during a campaign stop for Capito’s Democratic opponent Natalie Tennant on Monday.

A senior Tennant campaign aide told The Hill that Warren is “expected to draw a stark contrast” with her own record as a member of the Senate Banking Committee to Capito’s time on the House Financial Services Committee.

{mosads}”I’ve seen Congresswoman Capito in action on the House Financial Services Committee, and time and again I have seen her put the interests of Wall Street banks ahead of the needs of working families,” Warren said in a statement to The Hill.

Capito laughed off Warren’s criticism.

“She doesn’t have any idea what she’s talking about,” Capito told The Hill in response to Warren’s criticism. “I think she says that about anybody that she’s campaigning against.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will look to draw a contrast of his own when he campaigns for Capito across the state in Charleston on the same day.

“Sen. Warren is about 180 degrees from what anybody — most people, a large majority of our state — believes,” Capito said. “She believes in the war on coal. She believes in an expanded healthcare bill that West Virginians wholeheartedly reject. And I think her liberal philosophies are at tremendous odds with our state.”

She continued: “[Warren’s] support of my opponent shows that my opponent believes this, too. I would say that Paul Ryan is a problem solver, he’s interested in finding future solutions to eliminate our debt and to preserve the programs that are so important to the future, like Social Security and Medicare. The contrast is pretty stark.”

But there’s also the chance that the Massachusetts senator’s visit could hurt Tennant in the conservative state. Warren supports President Obama’s environmental regulations that the coal industry — including coal-state Democrats like Tennant and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — vehemently oppose. Obama remains largely unpopular in West Virginia, a state he lost in the 2012 presidential election by nearly 27 percentage points.

While most political watchers view Warren as more liberal than Obama, she is considered a high-profile liberal fundraiser. And Warren’s trip to West Virginia on Monday will likely highlight Capito’s financial record. Capito’s No. 2 career contributor is Citigroup, second only to Powell Construction. 

Warren is an outspoken critic of Wall Street, calling for more financial reform as well as more transparency with the so-called “revolving door” between the public and private sectors, where former government employees take jobs financial institutions and vice versa.

One of Capito’s most high-profile financial services regulatory political fights was in 2011. 

As chairwoman of the House Financial Services subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, she introduced legislation that delayed the implementation of a final rule on “swipe fees,” legislation that Wall Street backed heavily.

The 2010 Wall Street Reform Act, also called Dodd-Frank, after its authors, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), gives the Federal Reserve authority to regulate how much money banks collect each time consumers swipe their debit cards. 

It’s a lobbying war that pits two of Washington’s most powerful industries against one another: big banks versus the retail industry and divided Democrats in the process.

Capito introduced the legislation with Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) on March 15, 2011, that would delay implementation of the proposed rule by one-year.

The Democratic-controlled Senate, which never took up the bill, was split on the issue. Since then, the banks versus retail spat has turned to the federal courts.

During the 2012 campaign cycle, Capito’s largest campaign donor came from Sullivan & Cromwell employees, who contributed $48,500, according to public records. Sullivan & Cromwell is a corporate law firm and has registered lobbyists. That was more than triple the amount that Sullivan & Cromwell employees gave to anyone else in a House race during the 2012 cycle.

About two months before introducing the credit swipe legislation, Capito hired Dan Casto, an attorney from Wall Street lobbying group Sullivan & Cromwell, to be her legislative director. (Casto is no longer with Capito’s office.)

In a statement to The Hill, Casto said: “As a native of West Virginia and a graduate of the West Virginia University College of Law, I had the privilege of working for my home state member of Congress for nearly a year and a half. Though I did no lobbying during my tenure at Sullivan & Cromwell, I recused myself from Financial Services Committee and banking matters while on Rep. Capito’s staff to avoid even the appearance of conflict. I have since left Washington to return to West Virginia to practice law and am proud to call this state my home.”

Wells Fargo Advisors officials announced on March 29, 2011, that it hired Capito’s husband, Charles Capito, as a senior vice president in their Charleston, W.Va., offices.

Washington-based liberal group Public Citizen has called on Capito to disclose more information about her husband’s role at Wells Fargo, one of several big banks that spent millions lobbying to delay swipe fees. Charles Capito could not immediately be reached for comment.

“We believe the public has the right to know that a bill you have authored is considered a key legislative goal of the bank that just hired your husband,” Public Citizen wrote in a letter to Capito in 2011.

On such criticism, Capito told The Hill, “that does not even dignify a response from me,” adding that “my work in helping West Virginia community banks and credit unions has been tireless and you can ask any of them there about how I’ve helped them expand credit to small businesses, help families be able to afford houses.”

Capito campaign spokeswoman Amy Graham denounced the attacks as “nothing more than a recycled, baseless attack that was put to bed years ago.”

“Natalie is attacking Shelley over an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill that had support from at least 42 Democrat co-sponsors. … Given her weak fundraising and these questionable charges, Natalie Tennant’s campaign looks a little desperate,” Graham said. 

Capito collected $1.3 million in second-quarter fundraising, about a half more than Tennant, who raised $777,000. That could change with Warren, however, who considered a dominant fundraising force who can activate the liberal base. 

Capito’s latest fundraising numbers put her with $5 million cash on hand, but Tennant hasn’t yet said how much she has in the bank at the end of June. Recent polls put Capito ahead with an eleven percentage point lead. 

—This post was updated at 9:31 p.m.  

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Dan Casto’s last name and mischaracterized Sullivan & Cromwell solely as a lobbying group. The story has been updated to correct those errors. 


Tags Elizabeth Warren Elizabeth Warren Joe Manchin Natalie Tennant Paul Ryan Paul Ryan Shelley Moore Capito Shelley Moore Capito West Virginia Senate

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