Maine U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin is a millionaire former Wall Street investment banker and has received the second-most campaign contributions from the financial sector of any member of the House. We all expected that he’d carry some water for his friends on Wall Street.

What I didn’t expect was for him to be quite so public about it. In a series of videos Poliquin’s office has posted to YouTube, he seems to delight in attacking and belittling the government officials tasked with regulating Wall Street who testify before his Financial Services Committee.

In one, he warns the director of enforcement for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission against falling into a “pattern of overreach” and cautions him against being too hard on Wall Street firms.

“It would be terrific if you would think about people’s reputation, their firm’s reputation and the confidence that people need to invest,” Poliquin said.

In another clip, he admonishes Janet Yellen, chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, claiming that “there have been mountains and mountains of regulations and rules that are starting to smother our financial services industry.”

He seems to reserve special ire, however, for representatives of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In one YouTube exchange with director Richard Cordray, he interrupts the regulator 21 times in a five-minute clip, peppering him with accusations.

“I’m trying to answer your question, do you want me to answer your question or not?” Cordray finally asks after the 15th interruption by Poliquin.

The issue Poliquin was on about – what he claimed was an inflated cost of office space for the bureau – turned out to be nothing.

The costs were right in line with normal market prices, according to an examination by the Federal Reserve’s inspector general. (Poliquin has since called for the appointment of a new inspector general with specific oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau).

Poliquin adopts a very different tone with allies of Wall Street. In a clip of him questioning a representative of a pro-deregulation think tank founded and funded by the Koch brothers, he spends almost four minutes railing against “big brother government” and then asks her, “Don’t you agree?”

She does agree, and her answer is not interrupted.

I don’t mean to imply that what Poliquin does on YouTube is more important than how he votes on the House floor, but the videos he posts do provide some extra insight into his votes.

In April, he voted to cut the budget of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Just this week, his committee marked up a bill, for which he is an original co-sponsor, which would get rid of Cordray and replace the director with a bipartisan board, basically guaranteeing that the bureau would be stuck in gridlock and unable to enforce consumer protections. Americans for Financial Reform called it “an outrageous sneak attack” on the financial regulator.

Poliquin’s attacks on the bureau, sneaky or otherwise, are particularly unfortunate.

For decades before the financial collapse of 2008, through lobbyists, campaign contributions and corruption of the agencies meant to be providing oversight, big banks and investment firms whittled away the rules that were meant to keep them in check. Once they had eliminated the protections against them putting too much of our economy at too great a degree of risk, the consequences were inevitable.

After the collapse, even many free-market Republicans realized that things couldn’t continue as they were and that real reforms were needed. Thus the Bureau was born, an agency dedicated to protecting consumers from the worst excesses of the big banks.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s enabling legislation doesn’t go as far as many progressives had hoped, but over the past four years its enforcement actions against financial institutions engaging in deceptive practices have already returned more than $10.8 billion to more than 17 million Americans.

If it had been around before the crash, its protections would have prevented the subprime loan crisis.

The bureau is next set to tackle the unconscionable excesses of the payday loan industry, something that Poliquin donor Advance America, the nation’s largest payday loan company, wants desperately to prevent.

To see Poliquin attacking the bureau, both in his videos and in his votes, is one more reminder of who he really represents. The financial interests who are paying his way are getting their money’s worth, and any time they want to check in on their investment, they just have to click over to YouTube.

Mike Tipping is a political junkie who works for the Maine People’s Alliance. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @miketipping

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