AFR Statement: Wall Street Money Hits $719 Million in 2017, Headed Past $2 Billion in this Election Cycle


May 7, 2018

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Wall Street 2017 Money in Washington Hits $719 Million

Current Election Cycle On Pace to Outstrip the record $2 billion mark of 2015-16

Washington – Wall Street pumped $719 million into the political process in 2017, a rate that puts it on pace to outstrip the record $2 billion it spent during the 2015-2016 campaign cycle, according to a new report by Americans for Financial Reform.

A special data set prepared for AFR reveals that the financial services industry channeled $246 million into campaigns last year and spent $473 million on lobbying during a busy year that included legislation to deregulate big banks, cut taxes on corporations, and scale back consumer protections. That works out to about $2 million per day.

Mick Mulvaney, the senior White House official whom President Trump installed as acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, recently said that contributions bought access to him when he served in Congress. This report outlines, to the extent possible with public data, the contributions and lobbying expenses that exert subtle influences in our political system and underpin the pay-to-play practices that Mulvaney laid bare.

“The last year provided still more examples of Wall Street political spending producing policies that will harm most Americans, including massive tax cuts for big banks, less regulation of big banks, and fewer consumer protections,” said Lisa Donner, executive director, Americans for Financial Reform. “Year after year, big money in politics helps Wall Street rig the system in its own favor, and against the rest of us, even though voters oppose the policies it seeks.”

The 57-page report, “Wall Street Money in Washington,” 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 services industry spending. As the data does not include “dark money” that goes mostly unreported, the actual sums of Wall Street spending are surely much higher.

Historically, in the first year of a non-presidential election cycle, only 25 percent of contributions came in the first year, and lobbying expenditures don’t generally vary much over a cycle. That pattern suggests the 2018 cycle will be, once again, a record-breaking example of Wall Street’s determined efforts to suffuse the political process with money – and get a payoff from its investment.

Individuals and entities associated with the financial sector reported making $246,373,619 in contributions to federal candidates for office during this election cycle (2017-18 for House candidates and 2013-2018 for Senate candidates) through December 31, 2017 (as reported by February 20, 2018). The financial sector’s contributions were significantly greater than that of any other specific business sector identified in the data. Of the $198,772,246 in party-coded contributions by PACs and individuals associated with finance, 60% went to Republicans and 40% went to Democrats.

The financial services industry reported spending a total of $472,618,066 on lobbying in calendar year 2017. This puts the sector in third place, behind the “Health” sector, which spent $555,010,906 and “Miscellaneous Business” companies and trade associations, which spent $503,758,285. The Miscellaneous Business category includes groups, such as the US Chamber of Commerce ($82,288,005 total expenditures), that also do a significant amount of lobbying on financial issues.

Big spenders within the industry include the American Bankers Association ($13.1 million), Citigroup ($5.9 million), Paloma Partners ($5.6 million), Goldman Sachs ($5.2 million), Renaissance Technologies ($5.6 million), and the Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association ($8.5 million).

A spreadsheet of House members’ money from the financial services industry through May 30, 2018, using a slightly different methodology, is available here.