When Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter forced a runoff in the Arkansas Democratic Senate primary on May 18, it looked as if the labor movement might just force a revamping of how derivatives are bought and sold on Wall Street--more importantly, who buys and sells them.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln had proposed a tough amendment that would spin off derivatives operations from commercial banks. Just before her primary, as she led in polls and was expected to cruise to victory, Sen. Chris Dodd introduced an amendment that would weaken it; the press caught on late, and it looked like Dodd was removing the provision now that Lincoln was out of political danger in her primary. Well, with organized labor spending millions to back Halter, Lincoln failed to reach 50% of the vote, and her primary battle continued, and Halter gained some key momentum. Dodd then pulled his amendment, essentially putting Lincoln's get-tough measure back in. The political danger was back, thanks to labor's campaigning, and so was Lincoln's measure to crack down on the Wall Street derivatives trade.
Tonight, Halter and Lincoln will square off for the finale.
So where does that leave us now? Daniel Indiviglio, over at the Business Channel, says tonight's results--quite anticlimactically given the drama surrounding Lincoln's amendment, and all the imputations of political motive--won't actually change derivatives or financial reform at all.
Which makes for a less exciting ending to a fairly good political story.
For more on the amendment, the dynamics of the race, and why Democrats do and don't want to include it in the final bill, see Dan's breakdown.