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Wall Street Lobbying: Behind the Numbers

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Wall Street lobbying groups spent $719 million in 2017 to fight battles over cutting corporate taxes, rolling back consumer protections and easing regulation of large banks, according to a recently released report by Americans for Financial Reform.

The AFR report notes that the 2017 figure puts Wall Street lobbying on pace to outstrip the record $2 billion it spent during the 2015-2016 campaign cycle.

The biggest spenders within the financial services 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 and Financial Markets Association ($8.5 million), according to the 57-page report, “Wall Street Money in Washington.”

Lisa Donner, AFR’s executive director, told ThinkAdvisor that “Wall Street threw its campaign to reverse or undermine the [Labor Department’s] fiduciary rule into a higher gear the moment it saw an opening after the 2016 election. It is not surprising to see one of the industry’s biggest lobbying organizations ranking high on the list of groups that put millions of dollars into the political system.”

The report 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,” according to the report.

Historically, in a non-presidential election cycle, only 25% of contributions come 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,” the report states.

The financial services industry reported spending a total of $473 million on lobbying in calendar year 2017, placing the sector in third place behind the health sector, which spent $555 million, and “miscellaneous business” companies and trade associations, which spent $503 million.

The miscellaneous business category includes groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($82.3 million total expenditures), which the report notes “also do a significant amount of lobbying on financial issues.”

Top recipients of financial sector contributions in the House of Representatives for the 2017-2018 election cycle were:

  • House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., $3.9 million;
  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.: $2.3 million;
  • Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.: $1.2 million
  • House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas: $1 million
  • Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit: $989,138

Top recipients of financial sector contributions in the Senate for the 2017-2018 election cycle were:

  • Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: $1.7 million;
  • Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee: $1.3 million;
  • Tim Kaine, D-Va., member of the Senate Budget and Armed Services Committees: $1.3 million;
  • Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., member of the Senate Aging Committee,  $1.3 million;
  • Jon Tester, D-Mont., member of the Senate Banking Committee: $1.3 million.

— Check out Drug Industry Set Lobbying Records As Pricing Pressure Looms on ThinkAdvisor.


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