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A Republican Populist On a Mission

Representative Richard H. Baker (R-La.) and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan share two interests: stargazing and curbing the risk to the financial system posed by mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. So when Baker got a photo of a star exploding into two gaseous clouds, he sent a copy to Greenspan with a note about the risks represented by big, complex systems -- a thinly veiled allusion to the two mortgage behemoths.

Now Baker, chairman of the house capital markets subcommittee, is at the center of his own supernova. The scandal over Freddie's accounting practices has given him a long-sought opening to rein in both quasi-governmental institutions. And his campaign to force mutual funds to disclose more information about fees and costs is rattling an industry that considers itself squeaky-clean.

In the past, Baker, 55, has shone harsh lights into some of Wall Street's darker corners -- but mostly left the cleanup to regulators or industry self-policing. Now, he's starting to do more of his own heavy lifting. Before the in

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