This Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the passage of the “Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act,” legislation passed by Congress to rein in the banks and protect consumers from the practices that led to the economic collapse. Since it’s passage, Wall Street interests have continued to exert influence over Congress in efforts to weaken, repeal, or as one bank lobbyist said recently, “reform the reform.”
In the 2010 election cycle, the finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) sector spent $212 million on campaign cash to candidates for Congress—a 15% increase from the $184 million spent in the 2006 midterms. Already in the 2012 cycle, the FIRE sector has spent at least $41,689,909 in campaign contributions, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
And all one has to do is look at the first six months of the 112th Congress to see just how much influence this money has on our political process.
Here’s our list. If we’re missing something, post it in the comments!
- In December, incoming financial services committee chair Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) told his hometown newspaper that his job was to “serve the banks.” And his first quarter fundraising showed that they were returning the favor—with 18 of the 20 PACs that donated to him in the first three months of 2011 having business before his committee.
- Early in 2011, Rep. Michele Bachman (R-Minn.) proposed legislation that would repeal Dodd-Frank outright. In the 2010 election cycle, Bachmann received over $600,000 in campaign contributions from the finance, insurance, and real estate sector. Now a presidential candidate, that number will only go up
- After Tea Party energy swept scores of new lawmakers into office in 2010, it turns out that this “populist” movement was funded with huge amounts of Wall Street Cash. Public Campaign Action Fund (PCAF) issued this report on the Tea Party’s Wall Street cash, and asked whether the new members would stand with donors, or their constituents that put them in office with promises of “changing Washington.”
- In late January, as efforts to undermine or repeal financial regulations passed by the previous Congress picked up steam, the Washington Post reported on how Wall Street and other wealthy interests showered the new leadership in the House with campaign contributions. Would they get a return on their investment?
- The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) reported in January that the financial industry played a “key role” in weakening regulatory constraints, that regulators lacked the “political will,” then highlighted the billions in campaign cash and lobbying the industry spend over the last decade. PCAF’s David Donnelly responded to the report, saying that. “The report out today is as much an indictment of a pay-to-play system that puts the special interests before the public’s interest as it is an indictment of greedy practices on Wall Street. “ When the FCIC reported its findings to the House Financial Services Committee, we showed that the committee had received over $70 million from Wall Street Interests.
- Good news? In February, the documentary film “Inside Job” about the causes of the financial crisis, won the Oscar for Best Documentary. After he won, Director Charles Ferguson said, “Unfortunately, I think that the reason is predominantly that the financial industry has become so politically powerful that it is able to inhibit the normal process of justice and law enforcement.”
- When Freshman Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) was appointed to the vice chairmanship of a congressional panel overseeing financial institutions, Public Campaign Action Fund asked whether Renacci would represent his constituents or his Wall Street donors in his new position. Renacci benefitted from $421,000 in spending by the anti-regulation U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the 2010 election and received nearly $150,000 in campaign contributions from Wall Street interests.
- After Wall Street spent $293 million on campaign contributions in the 2010 cycle and hired nearly 2,500 lobbyists last year to rack up $471 million in lobbying fees, you’d think Wall Street would have its bases covered in the DC influence game. Not so. The Washington Post reported in March that a new trade association representing securities firms was opening up shop in D.C. to help with efforts to stifle implementation. A former staffer to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate banking committee, is running the new office.
- One would think that Wall Street lobbyists would have done the most work when the original Dodd-Frank debate took place in 2010. But after 2011 1st quarter lobbying reports were released, this proved to be untrue. The 26 financial firms and trade associations that spent the most in 2010 on lobbying also spent $27 million in lobbying in the first quarter of the year—a 2.7% increase from the same time period in 2010 when the original law was being drafted and debated.
- In May, as a House subcommittee was prepared to “mark up” legislation that would significantly weaken the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Public Campaign did some research and found that subcommittee members had received $13 million from Wall Street interests. PCAF asked whether subcommittee chairwoman, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) would stand with voters or the $776,000 she’s received from Wall Street donors during her time in Congress.
- Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-V.a) took a little jaunt up to New York City in May for a Wall Street fundraiser. As Public Campaign noted at the time, the duo has received millions in Wall Street cash over the years.
- In April, Senate Republican leaders endorsed Sen. Jim DeMint’s legislation to repeal Wall Street reform. The 19 original cosponsors of the legislation received “nearly $50 million” from the FIRE sector. In June, DeMint joined Sen. Jim Moran (R-Kan.) to push repeal amendments as part of other legislation. The two have received a combined $4.2 million from financial interests during their career.
- In June, Big Money Mitch (as we like to call him)--or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)—said that the slower Wall Street reforms are implemented, “the better America will be.” America won’t be better off, but the Wall Street donors that have given him $5.7 million in campaign cash over the years might be.
- When Wall Street interests aren’t getting exactly what they want from members of Congress, they just find someone else to lobby. And as Nancy Watzman at the Sunlight Foundation reported this week, “Overall, government officials have reported more than 2,100 meetings with outside parties since the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act last year.”
- The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and one of its subcommittees have hosted Elizabeth Warren, Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau (CFPB). In May, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) called her a liar. Before her visit to the full committee in July, PCAF issued this background memo on the Oversight committee’s Wall Street cash.
- And if it wasn’t clear already, the fundraising hasn’t stopped. In fact, a quick search of “financial services” on PoliticalPartyTime.org provides a long list of fundraisers the industry has hosted for members of Congress from both parties.
Wall Street’s efforts to influence members of Congress to weaken new regulations, at the expense of consumers, rages on. With 2012 expected to be the most expected election in history, these bankers and other Wall Street donors will be throwing even more skin in the game.