This past Wednesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) held a town hall in Layton, Utah, to hear the concerns of his constituents. The senator covered issues ranging from immigration to his votes against confirming Supreme Court justices.
During one point of the town hall, Hatch opened up the floor for questions from his constituents. One asked him why, given the reckless and criminal behavior of Wall Street financial elites in the lead up to the financial crisis, there have not been more significant prosecutions of bankers who broke the law. While Hatch quickly agreed that some bankers may have committed crimes and should be investigated, he quickly veered off to attacking Democratic proposals to place new regulations on Wall Street.
The same questioner then followed up, “I don’t think you get it, sir. We’re angry at the bankers, I don’t want to hear all this about the government!” Hatch then changed his tone, put on an angry face, and replied that he thinks some bankers have committed crimes. He attacked Democrats, claiming Wall Street “keeps Democrats in power” and said Republicans “don’t get much help from them”:
QUESTIONER: Clearly the bankers lied to this end, to get tens of billions of dollars in federal money and then celebrated their fraud by giving large bonuses to themselves. They are literally bank robbers. My question to you is, why are you not calling for their arrest [...] and to have them tried and put in jail because of their fraud?
HATCH: Well, I will be calling for it, if we can prove criminal action. I think there are some people who are committing criminal action, no doubt about it. Look I’m not happy with this Wall Street bill [...] it’s just another way of controlling our lives. Do you wanna know what’s good about it? Nothing. Wanna know what’s bad about it? Everything. [...]
QUESTIONER: Senator, I have a follow-up question. I don’t think you get it, sir. We’re angry at the bankers, I don’t want to hear all this about the government, and the difficulty. It’s the criminal activity of the bankers that is destroying our economy, and the world economy, and if you could just stand up to them? [...]
HATCH: [...] If they commit crimes, they oughta go to jail. We are going after that. I’m a member of the Judiciary Committee, I am going after them!
While Hatch mantains that he has called for criminal investigations into Wall Street’s wrongdoing, he has attacked efforts to do so in the past. When the SEC announced that it will be bringing fraud charges against Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs, Hatch immediately appeared on Fox News to slam the effort, saying, “There’s something terribly wrong here and I don’t know what it is, but to do that right at this particular time, you know, the timing is very suspect in my eyes.”
Hatch’s claim that Republicans aren’t funded by Wall Street is also suspect. While it’s true that Democrats took the lion’s share of Wall Street funding in 2008, the recent regulatory reform push by Democrats that will place place tough new regulations on Wall Street has pushed the financial industry’s donors towards the Republicans. The Washington Post reports that there has been a “revolt among big donors on Wall Street is hurting fundraising for the Democrats’ two congressional campaign committees, with contributions from the world’s financial capital down 65 percent from two years ago.” Meanwhile, “commercial banks and high-flying investment firms have shifted their political contributions toward Republicans in recent months.”
Earlier this year, Hatch said that the GOP base is “mad at everybody” and complained that the tea party fails to have an “open mind.” As a result, he has tried to argue that, despite his 30 years in the Senate, he’s not “part of Washington.”