The billionaires and millionaires of Wall Street deploy so much money to influence American politics and society that we can easily lose track of how pervasive it is. They spread money around to campaigns, think tanks, and lobbyists. Wealthy executives finance universities, cultural institutions, and hospitals. And this historical moment has laid bare for all to see that Wall Street also finances a virulently anti-democratic strain in American politics, one that always takes aim at people of color.
The $1.9 billion Wall Street poured into American politics includes contributions to campaign committees and leadership PACs ($922 million) and lobbying expenditures ($957 million). The money backed a massive rush of pro-industry nominees and legislation over the last two years, at a time when the biggest banks made $100 billion in profits for the first time.
Ten years after the financial crisis, a majority of members of the Congress that wrapped up work in 2018 voted again and again for bills pushed by the bank lobby that endanger financial stability, undermine consumer and investor protections, and enable racial discrimination in lending. The change in control of the House and a heightened awareness of the dangers posed by these actions provide an opportunity to see what changes in the 116th Congress.
The report includes facts about lobbying spending that hit $2 billion in the last election cycle, and continues unabated, Wall Street executives in the Trump administration and regulatory agencies, tax cut windfalls for the finance industry, and a deregulatory free-for-all. It also includes a case study of how Wells Fargo’s outrageous conduct somehow earned it the distinction of being the biggest winner from the Trump-Republican tax bill.
“[T]he Senate cabal has masked their handout by claiming to focus on relief for small community banks… [But] the proposal ‘includes over a dozen measures that would ease rules on banks, and a few minor changes for consumers that ought to be a given,’ said Marcus Stanley, policy director at Americans for Financial Reform, the main pro-regulatory advocacy group in D.C.”
A look back at the financial lobby’s robotic opposition to one proposed reform after another, and how Wall Street’s claims have squared with real-world events. This new AFR report homes in on three pre-financial-crisis case studies, involving credit cards, mortgages, and derivatives.
“H.R. 10, the ‘Financial CHOICE Act’… would be better dubbed ‘Wall Street’s CHOICE Act,’ as it would have a devastating effect on the ability of regulators to protect consumers and investors from Wall Street exploitation and the economy from financial risks created by too-big-to-fail megabanks. It would expose consumers, investors, and the public to greatly heightened risk of abuse in their regular dealings with the financial system, and our economy as a whole to a far greater risk of instability and crisis.”
“According to the advocacy group Americans for Financial Reform, payday and title lenders spent more than $15 million on campaign contributions during the 2014 election cycle. The top recipient, with nearly $224,000 in donations from the industry, was the National Republican Congressional Committee. The largest individual recipient, with $210,500 in payday and title loan cash, was — you guessed it — Hensarling.”
“Banks and other financial companies expecting big benefits from Republican-led deregulation spent record amounts on lobbying in the last election cycle… The financial sector spent $2 billion on political activity from the beginning of 2015 to the end of 2016, including $1.2 billion in campaign contributions – more than twice the amount given by any other business sector, according to the study from Americans for Financial Reform.”