Street spent $5 billion on influence, study says

Mar 4, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

By Dan Jamieson

The financial services industry spent more than $5 billion on political contributions and lobbying from 1998 through 2008, according to a study released today.

The study, issued by Essential Information, a Washington-based non-profit that seeks to curb corporate influence, and the Los Angeles-based Consumer Education Foundation, a non-profit consumer organization, blames influence peddling for the financial crisis.

Wall Street investment firms, commercial banks, hedge funds, real estate companies and insurers made $1.7 billion in political contributions and spent another $3.4 billion on lobbyists, the study found.

Securities firms spent more than $504 million in campaign contributions and $576 million on lobbying over the period.

Spending by the major New York-based firms was:

The Goldman Sachs Group Inc.: $46 million

Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.: $68 million

Citigroup Inc.: $108 million

JPMorgan Chase & Co.: $65 million

In addition, Bank of America Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., spent $39 million; the former Wachovia Corp. of Charlotte spent $15.9 million; and Wells Fargo & Co. of San Francisco spent $21.9 million.

Lawmakers and regulators “responded to the legal bribes from the financial sector” by rolling back standards, barring new rules to address “trashing enforcement efforts,” Robert Weissman, director of Essential Information and the lead author of the report, said in a statement.

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