A news article in the New York Times under the headline "Both Parties Play the Wall Street Card, Sometimes From the Bottom of the Deck," reports:
Another Democratic ad notes that Mr. Toomey, while serving in the House, called derivatives "an enormous good" during a 2000 hearing. But both parties overwhelmingly agreed that year to exempt over-the-counter derivatives from strict regulation, in what is now commonly regarded as a mistake.
Back in 2000, the decision was commonly regarded as sensible. It's nice for the Times to parrot conventional wisdom, but that conventional wisdom has its limits. Not to mention that if the knowledge is so common, one wonders why it needs to be repeated to Times readers, who presumably are already aware of it. It would be nicer, though, for the paper to push past the conventional wisdom. After all, even if Congress had authorized the "strict regulation" of over the counter derivatives, why would anyone think that would have helped? The regulators at the SEC missed the Bernard Madoff scheme, and the ones at the Federal Reserve kept interest rates too low for too long. The financial crisis involved some of the most highly regulated financial institutions in the country (Citigroup, Bank of America) and some of the most highly regulated products (home mortgages) as well as over-the-counter derivatives.
More from the same Times story:
Mr. Toomey, who has held a small lead in most polls, says in an attack ad of his own: "Congressman Joe Sestak voted for the Wall Street bailout. Then he voted to keep the bailouts going, even opposing bipartisan efforts to stop them."
That claim could also be viewed as misleading. Mr. Sestak, like most House Democrats, opposed a largely symbolic resolution in January 2009 to block the release of $350 billion, the second half of the bailout money. (The resolution was essentially meaningless because the Senate had already voted not to hold up the release of the money.)
If the resolution was "essentially meaningless," Mr. Sestak could have voted for it, too. The fact that it was "largely symbolic" doesn't mean it was meaningless — it means it symbolized something, something that Mr. Toomey wagers the voters in his state care about. Symbolic issues are issues, too. For the Times to write that the claim "could also be viewed as misleading" is a little like a baseball home plate umpire, faced with a fastball over the corner of the plate, who yells "That could also be viewed as a ball!" Come on.