House Speaker John Boehner and his cronies removed North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones from the House Financial Services Committee in late 2012, as part of a purge that removed Republicans who were not all in for Wall Street—and for Boehner’s brand of “service” to the industries that are supposed to be regulated by Congress—from the one panel with the power to hold bankers and brokers to account.
But Jones, who had opposed bank bailouts and favored Wall Street regulation, did not go quietly. He spoke up about the purge and made little secret of his sense that—though he had split with Boehner on a number of issues—his biggest “sin” in the eyes of the party leadership was his refusal to bow to the demands of big campaign donors.
“This whole place is all about money. Money is more important than policy,” complained Jones, who has in recent years co-sponsored most major pieces of campaign-finance reform legislation in the House—including a call for a constitutional amendment designed to restore the ability of federal, state and local officials to regulate campaign spending.
The congressman’s bluntness did not go over well with the masters of the universe on Wall Street. So, this spring, they set out to purge Walter Jones from Congress altogether.
They found a consummate DC insider with close ties to the financial-services industry, Taylor Griffin, and filled the challenger’s campaign treasury with PAC checks from JPMorgan, Wells Fargo and Bank of America, as well as political powerbrokers like former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour and Wayne Berman of the Blackstone Group.
It did not stop there.
Jones’s independence extended far beyond debates over Wall Street bailouts and regulation.
The Republican is a social and economic conservative—make that a social and economic very conservative—but he has repeatedly broken with the party establishment on issues of war and peace, privacy rights, trade policy and budgets. He even voted against proposals by the darling of Wall Street and the party establishment, Congressman Paul Ryan.