President-elect Barack Obama has announced the nominations of three experienced financial regulators to round out the economic team in his incoming administration.  At a news conference in Chicago, Mr. Obama also defended the inclusion of a minister in his inaugural activities who has come under fire by homosexual rights advocates. 

Throughout the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama blamed lax federal regulation for the financial crisis that rocked Wall Street and continues to ripple through the U.S. economy.

In announcing his latest appointments in Chicago, Mr. Obama said federal regulators had dropped the ball and had been asleep at the switch in the lead-up to the financial crisis, and he vowed to press ahead with reforms to help govern the financial markets.

"Financial regulatory reform will be one of the top legislative priorities of my administration, and as a symbol of how important I view this reform, I am announcing these appointments months earlier than previous administrations have.  These individuals will help put in place new common sense rules of the road that will protect investors, consumers and our entire economy from fraud and manipulation by an irresponsible few," he said.

The president-elect announced that veteran regulator Mary Schapiro is his choice to head the Securities and Exchange Commission.  The agency has come under fire for doing a poor job of protecting investors and detecting early signs of trouble brewing with banks and financial institutions on Wall Street.

Schapiro vowed to bring a new era of accountability in the marketplace if confirmed to her new job by the Senate.

"Investor trust is the lifeblood of our financial markets," she said. "The only way to restore the trust that has been lost is through effective, thoughtful reform of our regulatory structure and the consistent and robust enforcement of our financial regulations, and this will be my top priority."

Mr. Obama also named Gary Gensler to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Daniel Tarullo to fill a vacant seat on the board of the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve.

On another subject, Mr. Obama was asked about complaints from gay and lesbian supporters upset with his choice of California evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his presidential inauguration next month.

Warren is an outspoken opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage.  His inclusion in the inauguration program is seen by some as an attempt by Mr. Obama to politically reach out to conservative Christians who tend to support Republican politicians.

Mr. Obama said he intends to encompass a wide range of social and political views in his inaugural celebrations.

"There are going to be a wide range of viewpoints that are presented, and that is how it should be because that is what America's about, that is part of the magic of this country in that we are diverse," he said.

On Friday, the president-elect is expected to add a second Republican to his Cabinet with the nomination of retiring Illinois Congressman Ray LaHood to be secretary of transportation.

Mr. Obama promised to include Republicans in his Cabinet during the campaign, but the only one so far is Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who will be a holdover from the Bush administration.