Socialist Heather Booth: "The most accomplished community organizer you have never heard of." Roll Call Photos/Getty Images
Investors.com – h/t to MJ: Socialist activists and their front groups played a shockingly outsized role shaping and passing the monumental financial reform legislation that authorized the creation of President Obama’s powerful consumer credit watchdog agency.
Their intimate involvement is revealed in a new book, "Financial Justice: The People’s Campaign to Stop Lender Abuse (Kindle)", which offers a rare, if biased, behind-the-scenes look at the anti-bank movement’s multimillion-dollar lobbying effort in support of the Dodd-Frank Act.
Written by two leftist consumer advocates drawing from interviews with more than 30 of the activist-lobbyists, the book is a road map to their radical activities, from ginning up hatred for "greedy and unscrupulous" bankers to pressuring members of Congress to agree to things even some Democrats didn’t favor.
Their highly organized 2009-10 activities were coordinated by a well-funded coalition with a mainstream-sounding name: Americans for Financial Reform. Led by Heather Booth, a Chicago socialist and Friend of Barack, AFR worked closely with the White House and Democrats in Congress to craft the Dodd-Frank law now regulating Wall Street and virtually every consumer financial transaction in the country.
Members of her group have long agitated for affirmative-action lending and "greater public control of economic decision making." And they got both through Dodd-Frank.
Booth’s heavy hand in negotiations shatters the administration’s narrative that financial legislation was designed to "protect the middle class from another financial crisis."
Long before the crisis hit, Booth and other socialist community organizers from Chicago schemed with Harvard professor (now Sen.) Elizabeth Warren and other leftists from Boston to create what is now the powerful Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). They agreed to frame the issue in terms of helping the middle class, but it was really part of a broader socialist agenda to "eliminate the unfair separate-and-unequal financial system in America."
Much of the 2,300-page Dodd-Frank law reads more like civil rights legislation than financial regulation. "The coalition fought successfully to establish special offices within the CFPB for minorities," the book cheers.
After setting up a war room in Washington in 2009, Booth and her lobbyists met weekly with White House and Treasury Department officials to draft financial legislation and coordinate their efforts to ram it through Congress, wrote the authors.
The Booth team even fed media talking points to Democrat leaders and their staff.
In turn, at least a dozen of the Booth people got star billing at Democrat hearings, where they testified about the need to stop lender "abuses."
"Advocates were experienced at the inside baseball of Washington politics," authors Larry Kirsch and Robert Mayer wrote. "They had connections and credibility within congressional offices, especially with the staff of the key House and Senate committees chaired by (Rep.) Barney Frank and (Sen.) Chris Dodd."
The authors added: "A key was that a number of members of the (AFR) coalition enjoyed good, long-term, working relationships with Chairman Frank and Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C. — the two (House Financial Services) Committee leaders most able to support AFR."
(Obama has tapped the liberal Watt as the nation’s top mortgage regulator, overseeing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.)
In addition, the Booth group organized (1) a massive letter-writing campaign, (2) fly-in visits to lawmakers in Washington and (3) showdowns with bankers across the country, threatening them to stop opposing the CFPB.
In 2009, Booth and her team dispatched 5,000 protestors to make "life uncomfortable" for attendees of the American Bankers Association annual meeting in Chicago. The mob shouted, "ABA, you’re the worst! It’s time to put people first!" and carried signs that read, "We didn’t break the banks. The banks broke us."
The next year they deployed as many as 8,000 militants to demonstrate on Wall Street.
They also targeted and vilified key Republicans, most notably Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, as being in bed with "Wall Street fat cat bankers."
Brown ended up providing the deciding vote for the financial overhaul and went on to lose his Senate seat to Warren in 2012.
Booth "had the ear of the president and his staff," the book pointed out, and she and several other AFR leaders stood next to Obama when he signed Dodd-Frank into law in July 2010.
Without Booth, there may not be a new regulatory agency, at least not one with independent funding and little accountability, along with the unique power to write and enforce its own rules.
By all accounts, Booth was the catalyst behind CFPB. "Recruiting her was a stroke of genius," the authors wrote.
They added, "Heather Booth may be the most accomplished community organizer you have never heard of."
Booth flies under the public radar for a reason: She’s way outside the mainstream. In fact, she’s "the queen of socialist politics in Chicago," said Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington.
But the president knows her all too well. He and Booth worked together on former Democratic Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun’s 1992 Senate campaign.
A decade later, Booth and her union-boss husband helped finance Obama’s own Senate run, then donated to his White House bid.
It was Booth’s Midwest Academy — described by Kurtz as a "powerful socialist front group" — that helped fund Obama’s early organizing work.
Booth’s classmate and fellow Alinsky-ite Jerry Kellman hired and helped train Obama as an organizer in the 1980s.
In fact, Midwest Academy trained and even staffed up the dozens of radical nonprofit groups in the AFR coalition for the financial-overhaul battle. Booth taught the academy’s socialism session, which covers the doctrines of Marx and Lenin.
Though a self-described "conscious socialist," Booth has argued for incremental change vs. wholesale Marxist revolution.
However, she once told fellow travelers that "truly reaching socialism will likely take a revolution that is in fact violent, a rupture with the old ways in which the current ruling class and elites are wiped out."
Booth and her academy have been careful not to mention their socialist ideals — namely, "reallocating wealth and power" — explicitly in public. A leaked internal academy paper, however, reveals organizers decided early on that "every social proposal that we make must be couched in terms of how it will strengthen capitalism."
Indeed, AFR in its lobbying for the CFPB stressed how the new agency should ensure financial "safety and soundness" and "protect the middle class" from another crisis.
Yet before the crisis, the same network of social activists pressured banks to ease lending for high-risk borrowers with limited income and weak credit.
Booth’s deputy at AFR is Lisa Donner, a long-time employee of the Service Employees International Union and its radical sister organization Acorn. Both groups have deep socialist roots. Some SEIU chapters, in fact, have been tied to the Communist Party USA.
In effect, socialists drafted many of the new rules and regulations for Wall Street and the banking industry. Now their fellow travelers are inside the gates of the giant regulatory bureaucracy they set up, assisting in socially reallocating capital.
Many of these same AFR activists are paid advisers to the CFPB, serving as members of the agency’s influential Consumer Advisory Board.
Booth is not done changing Wall Street. She also wants to broaden and strengthen enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act, the federal anti-redlining regulation that the National Bureau of Economic Research recently concluded "led to riskier lending by banks" and higher default rates on home loans in the run-up to the crisis.
Plus, she wants to cap bank interest rates and tax all stock and bond transactions at a starting rate of 10 cents per $100 trade. She says this "tiny tax on Wall Street" would raise $1 trillion over 10 years and help pay for socialized medicine and poverty programs.
"A big battle still needs to be waged to curb the incentive of speculation and to get our money back to fund jobs and health care, climate and more," Booth said.
"This fight against Wall Street is part of an even larger fight over who matters in the society, over our values and our priorities, over whether or not we have corporate control in banking" or state control, she added.
An "action alert" posted on AFR’s website in June advises activists to "tell the president and Congress to get behind a Wall Street Speculation Tax," arguing such a levy "could generate significant revenue from a woefully undertaxed sector of the economy."