If Third Way’s attacks on Senator Elizabeth Warren make the group sound like a stalking horse for Wall Street executives, there might be a reason for that.
At a demonstration today outside the think tank’s downtown DC office, Third Way senior vice president Matt Bennett conceded to Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) co-founder Adam Green that “the majority” of Third Way’s donor support comes from the group’s board of trustees, most of whom are from the finance sector.
As TheNation.com and others have pointed out, the majority of Third Way’s trustees are finance industry executives, many of whom might have a vested interest in using a surrogate to attack Warren. Warren, whom Time magazine calls the “new sheriff of Wall Street,” has demanded greater regulation of the industry. Many of the trustees listed on the Third Way website hail from an assortment of private equity firms and other investment businesses. Others work indirectly, like Third Way trustee Thurgood Marshall Jr., whose professional website at the public affairs firm Bingham Consulting lists his work as “government relations” on issues concerning, among others, “banking regulations.”
Bennett explained to Green that the majority of donors to his group “write us personal checks,” so much of the Wall Street money to Third Way comes from individuals, not institutions. To be sure, Third Way also counts on other corporate donors. As we’ve reported, many companies maintain ties to Third Way, which was formed as a bulwark against economic progressivism within the Democratic Party, to advance their interests in Washington. For instance, both Qualcomm and Humana list their donations to Third Way as part of each company’s lobbying budget.
Third Way sparked the demonstration by authoring an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal last week titled “Economic Populism is a Dead End of Democrats.” Third Way’s Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler explicitly called out Warren’s proposals for expanding Social Security through taxes on higher income individuals. Though polls show rampant support for these policies, many critics believe there were ulterior motives for the opinion column. Expanding Social Security would not only end up expanding benefits for seniors, but would also force Third Way’s trustees to pay slightly more in taxes.
A transcript of the exchange is below:
GREEN: If you included the financial industry sector people, as individuals on your board, what percent would be Wall Street money?
BENNETT: Here’s the thing about defining Wall Street money. As we’ve said, our major donors are on our website. Many of them are in the finance sector, they write us personal checks. This is not from their institutions, many of them are retired or have left their institutions, in fact most of them. That is the majority of our financial support, coming from trustees.
GREEN: Is there a ball park? A percentage?
BENNETT: I’m not going to get into that.