By Rio Tazewell, People For the American Way
During the last election cycle, Wall Street banks and financial interests spent more than $2 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions, according to a new report out by Americans for Financial Reform. This equates to more than $2.7 million per day, or $3.7 million per member of Congress over the course of the two-year cycle.
The report goes on to detail the many companies and trade associations — more than 400 — that contributed. From the study:
The 20 companies and trade associations in the financial sector with the highest level of combined spending on lobbying and contributions (from their PACs and employees) were:
- National Association of Realtors (NAR) – $118,622,462
- Renaissance Technologies – $53,479,983
- Paloma Partners – $41,334,000
- Elliott Management – $28,020,354
- American Bankers Association (ABA) – $25,750,687
- Bloomberg LP – $25,528,952
- Soros Fund Management – $24,642,840
- Pritzker Group – $23,668,814
- Prudential Financial – $19,021,920
- Securities Industry & Financial Market Association (SIFMA) – $16,006,600
- Starr Companies – $15,316,251
- Stephens Group – $15,193,306
- Citadel LLC – $14,846,004
- Wells Fargo – $14,755,343
- Citigroup Inc – $13,676,918
- Hendricks Holding Co – $13,499,525
- MetLife Inc – $13,196,824
- New York Life Insurance – $12,792,478
- Goldman Sachs – $12,414,029
- Investment Company Institute (ICI) – $12,382,079
As a whole, the financial industry has spent an increasing amount since the 2008 financial crisis, in an attempt to weaken the implementation of new regulations, roll back existing ones, and prevent further proposals from gaining traction. Their strategy appears to have paid off. Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have made repealing Dodd-Frank and other key financial regulations a priority in their legislative agenda.
But the political blowback could be coming. A growing majority of Americans believe that money holds too much influence over our political process. A range of proposed reforms to curtail the power of big money in our elections already exist, and public support for them will likely increase even more as the problems that arise from the concentration of wealth and power continue to grow.
Trump may have promised to “drain the swamp,” but it’s become obvious that he intends to flood it further with more special interest cash. With a cabinet that has a net worth more than a third of all American households combined, the possible conflicts of interests are unparalleled in our history.
While Donald Trump’s administration may be shaping up to be the most corrupt in modern history, ultimately the power still rests with “We the People.”