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Michael Hiltzik: Biden nominee Omarova faces an ugly attack because banks know she'd be a tough regulator

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Biden stood fast with Khan, and she was confirmed in June. One hopes that he'll stick with Omarova just as solidly.

The case against Omarova is rooted in her birth and upbringing in what was formerly the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic and is now independent Kazakhstan. Now about 55 — her actual birthdate appears to be lost in the mists of the Soviet breakup — she received her baccalaureate at Moscow State University.

A star student, she was permitted to participate in a one-semester exchange program at the University of Wisconsin. She was there when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and never returned home.

Kennedy and his fellow Republicans have mined this history to suggest Omarova is an unreconstructed communist. (Notwithstanding his denial, Kennedy's questioning fairly dripped with disrespect.)

"You used to be a member of a group called the Young Communists, didn't you?" Kennedy asked her. He appeared to be referring to the Komsomol, a youth league that all Soviet youngsters were encouraged to join in order to receive school promotions.

When Omarova explained that, adding that membership lapsed with age, he asked, "Did you send them a letter, though, resigning?" as if leaving the Komsomol resembled giving up the chair of a Louisiana gardening club. In any event, the Komsomol ceased to exist in 1991.

 

As Omarova noted in replying to Kennedy, "I could not choose where I was born."

She added, pointedly, that her family had suffered tragically at the hands of the Soviets. "I grew up without knowing half of my family," she said. "My grandmother, herself, escaped death twice under the Stalin regime. This is what's seared in my mind. That's who I am."

She might have added that since receiving her Ph.D. at Wisconsin and a law degree from Northwestern, she worked for six years at the corporate law firm Davis Polk, hardly a socialist hive, and served in the Treasury Department under George W. Bush.

But this was all cynical posturing on Kennedy's part, of course. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has as finely tuned an antenna for phoniness as anyone in the Senate, had the opponents' number.

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