The financial services industry spends millions of dollars lobbying members of Congress, especially those sitting on the powerful Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, which writes the rules governing banks and lenders.
As lawmakers wrangled over landmark financial reforms, including credit card legislation and mortgage regulation, the American Bankers Association spent $6,876,000 lobbying Congress in the first nine months of this year.
Beyond lobbying, the industry pours millions of dollars into campaign contributions for members of the Banking Committee. Overall, members received more than $34 million from companies and individuals doing business in securities, investments, insurance, commercial banking, finance, credit, credit unions and savings and loans, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. (This figure does not include money from mortgage companies such as Countrywide Financial.)
Other findings from the filings from the last election cycle include:
- The American Bankers Association gave donations to the campaigns and leadership Political Action Committees (PACs) of two-thirds of Senate Banking Committee members in the last election cycle. Donations ranged from $7,500 to over $50,000.
- Nearly every member of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee accepted campaign donations from the financial services industry in the last election cycle -- most took more than $100,000.
- Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and their employees together donated more than $1.6 million to committee members.
- Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the committee, leads the pack with more than $8 million in industry donations to his campaign committee and leadership PAC in the last election cycle. Citigroup and its employees were his single largest donor, giving nearly $340,000.
- Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) was a distant second behind Dodd, receiving nearly $3 million from the financial services industry. Goldman Sachs and its employees were his single largest donor, giving more than $220,000 in the last election cycle.
- Only one member of the committee has passed on taking industry donations -- Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), who is independently wealthy from his family-owned business, Kohl's grocery and department stores, and his ownership of the Milwaukee Bucks. Kohl's worth is estimated at $234 million according to Roll Call, a Washington D.C.-based newspaper covering the U.S. Congress.
Karen Weise is a second-year student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where she received the Mark Felt Scholarship for Investigative Reporting.