During the 2019-20 election cycle, Wall Street spent at least $2.9 billion on campaign contributions and lobbying to influence policy in Washington, according to a report released today by Americans for Financial Reform. That total, which amounts to $4 million a day, shatters the previous record of $2 billion set in the 2015-16 presidential cycle. The highest-ever level of spending by Wall Street banks and financial services reflects the industry’s relentless push to influence decision-making, regardless of the party that controls Congress or the executive branch.
On January 6, 2021, Congress was scheduled to formally certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. But based on spurious allegations of voter fraud, 147 Republican members of the Senate and the House of Representatives voted to object to either the results in Arizona or Pennsylvania or both. Individuals and entities associated with the financial sector reported making a total of $43,483,590 in contributions to these members.
News Release: Voting Record Highlights House Efforts to Protect Consumers and Hold Wall Street Accountable During the 116th Congress
Today, Americans for Financial Reform released a record of votes during the 116th Congress regarding consumer protections and Wall Street accountability. During the 116th Congress, the Democratic-led House of Representatives advanced a number of measures to strengthen consumer protections and to put in place enforcement tools to hold bad actors in the financial industry accountable for abusive, discriminatory, and fraudulent practices.
AFR joined a letter strongly supporting the Force Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act (FAIR Act). The letter stated that the legislation would ensure that workers, consumers, servicemembers, nursing home residents, ordinary investors, and small businesses harmed by bad actors will be able to bring valid claims in court, and would not be forced into private, secretive, corporate-controlled arbitration systems required by nonnegotiable contracts. It argued for the particular need for Congress to move forward with this legislation in light of the economic hardship facing working families during the pandemic.
Letters to Congress: Letter Urging Congress to Provide Greater Assistance for Homeowners in COVID Relief Plan
AFR joined a letter urging Congress to expand assistance to homeowners in the upcoming COVID-19 relief package. The letter, which followed a previous letter to the Biden Administration urging for similar protections, requested that the upcoming COVID relief package include $25 billion for direct assistance to homeowners, with the bulk of the funds deployed through state housing finance agencies through the Homeowner Assistance Fund and including at least $100 million for housing counseling and $39.7 million for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program.
NEWS RELEASE: Advocates Applaud Senate Bill Fund to Help Millions of Families Keep Their Homes; Urge Inclusion in Covid Stimulus Bill
“Facing the most economic distress and illness, low-income families and communities of color are most at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure without relief. The Homeowner Assistance Fund is a necessary measure to stem the impending foreclosure crisis and prevent devastating losses for families and neighborhoods.”
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.
This legislation will create vitally needed new public protections by putting constraints on the collection, use, sharing, and selling of our personal data by financial services companies and all firms. The Data Accountability and Transparency Act’s bright-line approach appropriately shifts the burden of privacy protection away from consumers, who have minimal resources to protect themselves, and toward corporations, which profit immensely from the aggregation of our data.
Hundreds of thousands of small businesses shuttered by COVID-19 are at risk of closing for good in the coming weeks without direct subsidies. Very small businesses and those with historically limited access to capital are especially vulnerable. With little or no revenue coming in, entire sectors of the small business economy face extinction. Tens of millions of jobs are at stake – along with health care, sick leave, retirement, and other important benefits.
Corporate and Wall Street titans have used the coronavirus crisis to grab windfalls as a price for putting desperately needed resources into health care and helping people facing acute distress after losing jobs and income. The Trump administration and too many members of Congress actively promoted this terribly unbalanced approach to a public health emergency. The federal government – Congress and the executive branch – must move swiftly beyond what is in this legislation to help struggling people, families and communities in a just and inclusive manner. More needs to be done to respond to this crisis.