During the 2015-16 election cycle, Wall Street banks and financial interests spent more than $2 billion to influence decision-making in Washington, according to a report released today by Americans for Financial Reform. That total, derived from an exclusive data set, works out to more than $2.7 million a day, and over $3.7 million per member of Congress.
Since 2008, the financial services industry has spent more money on contributions and lobbying than it did before the crisis, and the total in this cycle is the highest yet. The numbers reflect the industry’s relentless efforts to roll back financial regulations put in place after the crisis, lobby Congress to weaken the rules, and to forestall deeper changes to the financial system.
“The entire apparatus of government operates in an environment flooded with millions of dollars in Wall Street cash on a daily basis,” said Lisa Donner, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform. “If you want to understand why finance too often hurts consumers, investors and businesses far from Wall Street, take a look at these numbers.”
“Wall Street Money in Washington,” a 62-page examination of political spending, draws on a special data set compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics for AFR in order to provide a more precise look at financial industry spending than is otherwise possible. As the data cannot include “dark money” that goes unreported, the actual sums of Wall Street spending are surely much higher.
Highlights of the report include:
Campaign Contributions: $1.1 billion. Individuals and entities associated with financial reported making $1,201,417,199 in contributions to federal candidates for office during this election cycle. The financial sector’s contributions were almost twice that of any other specific business sector identified in the data. Of the $688,150,613 in party-coded contributions by PACs and individuals associated with finance, 55% went to Republicans and 45% went to Democrats.
Five U.S. Senators and two House members were among the biggest Congressional recipients of financial sector contributions. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) topped this list with $8,687,969. The other senators were Ted Cruz (R-TX), with $5,482,011; Charles Schumer (D-NY), with $5,345,563; Rob Portman (R-OH), with $4,158,259; Pat Toomey (R-PA). Members of the House of Representatives were led by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), with $5,727,069; and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), with $3,397,980.
Lobbying: $898 million. The financial industry reported spending a total of $897,949,264 on lobbying in 2015 and 2016. This puts the sector in – close – third place, behind the Health sector, which spent $1,022,907,176, and a category of “Miscellaneous Business,” a sector that that itself probably includes some Wall Street lobbying by business groups with a broader focus than only finance.
Big Spenders. Hedge funds and private investment funds were prominent among the entities with the highest level of combined spending on lobbying and contributions (from their PACs and employees). The top 5 spenders were the National Association of Realtors ($118,622,462); Renaissance Technologies ($53,479,983); Paloma Partners ($41,334,000); Elliott Management ($28,020,354); and the American Bankers Association ($25,750,687). Big banks spent their share too: Wells Fargo ($14,755,343); Citigroup ($13,676,918); Goldman Sachs ($12,414,029)
The report details the spending by each of 460 financial sector companies and trade associations with at least $500,000 in declared lobbying expenditures and campaign contributions for the 2015-16 election cycle. Graphs track the amounts spent by the financial industry in each election cycle, going back to 1990 for contributions and to 2000 for lobbying.
The report also breaks out the contributions to members of the Senate Banking Committee and House Financial Services Committee, and highlights a set of conspicuously large contributions to members of Congress from a particular financial firm or industry.