Robert Reich’s Blog: How You and I Are Paying Wall Street to Lobby Congress to Go Easy on Wall Street
The new administration and Congress are busy preparing the second tranche of bailout money for Wall Street — TARP II — at the same time they’re developing a new set of regulations to make sure Wall Street doesn’t get into this kind of mess again. But will the old politics intrude?
Wall Street is one of the biggest campaign contributors to both parties, and the Street’s contributions have increased considerably over the last several election cycles. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, by the 2006 elections, Wall Street contributions to the Democratic Party had caught up with its rising contributions to Republicans.
Yet what’s happened to the Wall Street campaign contributions and to the lobbyists? They’re still going strong. We now know that many of the financial giants that have been bailed out by taxpayers continue to finance a platoon of Washington lobbyists, who are at this moment trying to influence TARP II and the next attempt to regulate Wall Street. In effect, your money and mine, and that of all other taxpayers, is paying these lobbyists to push Congress in a direction we have every reason to believe is not in our interests but in the continued interests of Wall Street. Citigroup, the recipient of $45 billion of taxpayer money so far, is still fielding “an army” of Washington lobbyists, according to the New York Times. Its lobbyists are working on a host of issues, including the bailout. In the fourth quarter of 2008, when it got its first infusion of bailout money, Citi spent $1.77million on lobbying fees. During the last three months of 2008, at least seven other firms receiving bailout funds (American Express, Capital One, Goldman Sachs, KeyCorp, Morgan Stanley, PNC and Bank of New York Mellon) lobbied the government about the bailout.
It is dangerous to the country that Washington is giving failed banks money with which to extract political favors from Washington.
Six months ago, if I would have been asked what the largest, most politically connected, corrupt, and insolvent banks were, I would have guessed names like Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and China Construction Bank: not Citi and Bank of America.
It would be better to allow the banks to be nationalized than keep funding this aristocracy of pull.
(Hat-tip to Economist’s View.)