When Attorney General Jerry Brown issued a broadside Monday against Moody's Investors Service, accusing the Wall Street rating firm of refusing to give him information on the global banking meltdown, it fit neatly into Brown's emerging strategy to win the governorship.
Democrat Brown, seemingly taking his cue from the Obama White House's high-profile battle with the banking industry over new financial regulations, is beginning to paint his leading Republican rival, Meg Whitman, as the product of a morally bankrupt banking system.
Whitman, best known as the former boss at eBay, once served on the board of Goldman Sachs, which has become the poster child for marketing poor-quality, mortgage-backed securities to global investors. She also received shares in new stock offerings managed by the firm, a practice called "spinning" that has since been banned.
Brown spent much of a weekend Democratic convention framing the battle over the governorship in populist terms, with himself as the champion of ordinary people against super-rich financial manipulators – implicitly including Whitman. Back to work Monday, he asked the courts to back his demands that Moody's, which he says gave high ratings to "risky and toxic" mortgage securities, give him information on its role in the financial meltdown.
Brown has called it "the biggest bank robbery in history." While he hasn't yet personally made the three-cushion political shot of Moody's-Goldman Sachs-Whitman, surrogates are doing it for him.
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