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Financial firms support GOP incumbent in Mass. Senate race

The vast majority of financial industry funding has gone to Sen. Scott Brown, who is benefiting from banks' desire to defeat Democrat challenger Elizabeth Warren.

October 25, 2012|By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times

"Even though Sen. Brown has not always supported our views on every issue, we have found him to be reasonable and willing to listen to all sides on every issue," said Richard M. Sanborn, chief executive of Seacoast Commerce Bank in San Diego. Sanborn is on the board of Friends of Traditional Banking, a so-called Super-PAC that is supporting Brown.

"This doesn't have anything to do with Elizabeth Warren," Sanborn said. "It's who we believe has our interests in heart and listens to both sides."

The financial industry is a major employer in Massachusetts, which is home to mutual fund giant Fidelity Investments and State Street Corp., one of the nation's largest banks.

Despite his vote on financial reform, Brown has been helpful to the industry, said Ed Mills, a financial policy analyst at FBR Capital Markets.

Brown withheld his vote to get a $19-billion fee on the financial industry removed from the overhaul bill. The fee would have covered the government's cost of implementing the new regulations, but Brown argued it would have been passed on to taxpayers.

The bill was changed so its costs were covered by an early end to the $700-billion financial industry bailout fund.

Brown also worked with some key Massachusetts Democrats to ease the effect of new regulations on so-called proprietary trading on Fidelity and trust banks, such as State Street.

"Are they 100% happy with him? No," Mills said of the financial industry. "But are they mostly comfortable with him? Yes."

And many in the financial industry and the broader business community are anything but comfortable with Warren.

"Sen. Brown enjoys overwhelming business support both for his strong legislative record and because Ms. Warren is industry's worst nightmare — an academic with no business experience who thinks she is smarter and more virtuous than those competing in the real world every day," said lobbyist Bruce Mehlman, a former Commerce Department official in the George W. Bush administration.

Massachusetts Republicans rarely are in lock-step with the national party, and Brown probably voted for financial reform to avoid angering Democrats and independents, said Peter Ubertaccio, a political scientist at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass.

Still, financial executives would rather have a Republican in that seat, and Brown probably would have easily outpaced any opponent in contributions from the industry, Ubertaccio said. But Warren's candidacy amped up Brown's support.

"Running against the country's leading critic of Wall Street has helped to focus the attention of the financial industry on this race in a way that perhaps any other Democratic candidate might not have," Ubertaccio said.

jim.puzzanghera@latimes.com

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