Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s assignment to the powerful House Financial Services Committee has triggered a fresh round of handwringing, this time with some merit. Banks are afraid of her — and they should be. The addition of Ocasio-Cortez, an outspoken advocate for financial reform, to the committee represents one of the greatest challenges to big banks’ interests since the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Though she joins other strong voices like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, on the committee, Ocasio-Cortez will give a voice to her generation, which came of age in the financial crisis.
Now under the leadership of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California), the Financial Services Committee is considered one of the House’s most active committees and wields great influence. The committee is described as a “magnet for campaign contributions,” and its members hold tight relationships with the industries they are tasked with overseeing. Public disclosures show that the financial, insurance and real estate sectors spend at least twice as much on campaign contributions to the committee’s members as any other sector. Both Rep. Sinema (D-Arizona) and Gottheimer (D-New Jersey) received over $1 million in contributions from Securities and Investment donors in the last congressional cycle.
By contrast, Ocasio-Cortez will join the committee as an independent, unbought politician. She boasted the largest number of small donors of any 2018 midterm candidate, with nearly 62 percent of her war chest coming from small donations. She’s built her brand and reputation on standing for working-class interests and, along with some other prominent Democratic candidates, has publicly eschewed big donors and corporate money.
Ocasio-Cortez’s fierce commitment to independence may also herald a step toward campaign finance reform. She tweeted earlier this week that she…