Two River Times

At Stop In RB, Pallone Touts Wall Street Reform

GOP opponents decry 'political opportunism'

The Two River Times — Friday, May 21, 2010

By John Burton

RED BANK — U.S. Representative Frank Pallone Jr. sees benefits for 'Main Street' in the Wall Street Reform' legislation pending in the Senate, and he anticipates that a version of the bill will be as strong.

The aim of the legislation is to regulate the financial industry in a way that will prevent an economic meltdown like the one that took place in 2008.

Pallone, a Democrat representing the 6th Congressional District (which includes Red Bank), appeared at the Broadway diner on Monmouth Street last Monday afternoon to talk about the ramifications of the bill for communities like Red Bank.

Pallone was joined by Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna, Nancy Adams, executive director of Red Bank RiverCenter, the borough's special improvement district, and Tom Fishkin, who owns and operates Readie's Fine Foods, a Monmouth Street business.

Local officials and business representatives shared their opinions regarding how the financial downturn on Wall Street impacted the local community.

"It's not a isolated thing," the hit the town has taken in this economic climate, said Menna, a Democrat.

The consequences for communities like this have been severe," Pallone added.

The House of Representatives has already passed he bill labeled the Wall street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which is making its way through the Senate.

The bill, according to Pallone, would put in place mechanisms to prevent the risky behaviors of the past by those in the financial businesses, thus protecting the public from any far reaching effects. It would directly protect consumers from predatory lending abuses, Pallone said, as well as allowing for greater transparency into that complex world.

The bill would also establish a new federal department, the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, that proponents have said is needed for additional oversight for the industry.

Along with those provisions, the bill would eliminate the need for any more direct taxpayer bailouts of stituations, by establishing a fund supported by those institutions — similar to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) — that would cover those costs of institutions that find themselves in trouble.

"We don't want a repeat of the economic meltdown," Pallone said.

The bill would provide tax credits and incentives for small businesses, with the intent being in, "Creating more jobs in small businesses" Pallone said. "That's the way to grow the economy."

Adams noted there have been effects in the business community. "We're increasing foot traffic, getting people into the town," she said. But they're not carrying the bags home like they did."

Leslie Schlesinger, with New Jersey Citizen Action, a coalition of government watchdog groups, offered her support for the proposed legislation. "This is our chance finally to get financial reform done," she said, despite the efforts of that industry lobbying against it. According to Schlesinger, the financial industry is currently spending about $1.4 million a day in lobbying efforts against the legislation, "basically to water this bill down."

The bill could make its way to the Senate floor by this Friday, Schlesinger estimated. If it passes, it would then return to the House of Representatives for committee review for the Senate changes, Pallone said.

This is an election year, and there are two candidates that are vying for the Republican nomination to challenge Pallone. Both offer differing opinions on the legislation and Pallone's positions.

Toni Angelini is communications director for Diane Gooch for Congress (Gooch, a Rumson resident, is owner and former publisher for The Two River Times).

Given that Pallone, according to a newspaper report earlier this week, is the largest recipient of contributions by Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, "I would say this is exactly the sort of cynical, political opportunism that turns voters off," Angelini said on Wednesday.

"It screams of hypocrisy," she added, "he's suddenly jumping on this bandwagon of reform here."

Anna Little, Highlands mayor, who is also campaigning for the GOP nomination in next month's primary, this week said she suspected, "Frank Pallone is probably realizing that he's in trouble because of the bailouts and the progressive nature of the legislation in Washington," which she said is not supported by the American people. "And obviously this is an election year."

Any constraint on business, Little said, "tends to increase costs, reduces or interferes with competition between businesses and the financial industry is no different." Such a move may turn out to be unconstitutional, she argued.

A better method to combat some of the excesses in that industry, Little said, may be through either the civil or criminal courts, rather than through more legislation.

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