If Democrats wanted to start framing the upcoming fight over regulatory reform in a “Blankfein’s bonus versus protection for you” kind of fashion, they could start by highlighting all the Wall Street funding that went to Scott Brown in the final days:

In a six-day span just before the US Senate election, Republican Scott Brown collected nearly $450,000 from donors who work at financial companies, a sign the industry is prepared to spend heavily in the upcoming midterm elections to beat back new controls and taxes President Obama wants to impose.

The donations, from hundreds of financial executives, far exceeded what Brown received from doctors and others in the health care industry in the final days of the campaign. While Brown saw donations from all quarters explode in mid-January, as polls showed him closing fast on opponent Martha Coakley, the donations from financial workers coincided with several key developments that would affect their companies […]

Martin Gruss, owner of a West Palm Beach, Fla., investment firm, said he gave $2,400 to Brown because he vehemently disagrees with the policies being pursued by Obama and his economic aides.

“They have no real understanding of the business implications of their actions,” he said, adding that limits on trading securities would undermine the position of the United States as the world’s financial capital. “I contributed to Scott Brown because his election will help redress the balance of power in the Senate.”

Get ready for more of this kind of spending, in particular from the private coffers of corporations, in the wake of the Citizens United ruling.

Still, there’s a downside here. A determined strategy on this can pretty easily paint Brown and his Republican colleagues as tools of special interests. The fact that he has rejected the tax on banks to recoup TARP losses only aids this strategy. And in fact, it’s the one planned by Senate Dems:

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wants their Senate candidate to emphasize two main points on the campaign trail: pin down Republican opposition to a tax on banks — and pin down Republican support of the Citizens United decision, which would open the door to increased corporate influence in American elections. Republicans know they’ve got to figure out a response, as Glen Bolger, an architect of Bob McDonnell’s victory in Virginia, has attested.

Most of President Obama’s agenda has united the Republicans in opposition, but a bank tax is one of the few things with the potential to drive a wedge through the Republican ranks.

“I think there is going to be a lot of pressure on them,” Bolger says, “because the push-back message, it’s nowhere near as strong as the Democrat attack. The banks are in a tough spot on winning this policy fight.”

73 percent of Americans say that Washington hasn’t done enough to regulate Wall Street, according to the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. This is one reason why Democrats plan to schedule a series of votes on campaign finance — and to try to bait Republicans into voting yes. This is one way for Democrats — in power — to run against powerful interests.

Of course, Democrats have their own perception issues here. So only actions will matter. The bank tax vote should be isolated and fast-tracked – only then can a clear choice be made between the parties.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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