In recent months, lawmakers from both parties have held "at least three dozen fund-raising events" with representatives from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley, three Wall Street titans with a heavy stake in the financial industry reform legislation now being considered in Congress.
The Wall Street Journal reports on the events, which, as Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) wrote in one invitation to Wall Street executives, provide "benefits designed to give you quality time with Republican policy makers through small gatherings." The cost, in that case? A $10,000 donation.
But don't think the money is just going to Republicans. While Democrats have sought to tie the GOP to Wall Street, the securities and investment industry has actually given more money to the party in power during the 2010 election cycle. Sixty-two percent of the money from that industry has gone to Democrats, and 37 percent to Republicans. (That has changed somewhat recently, the Journal notes: In the first two months of the year, Citigroup, Goldman , J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley gave twice as much to Republicans than Democrats.)
"I don't think the irony should be lost on anyone that while Democrats are making these attacks they've accepted twice as much money from Wall Street as Republicans," National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh told USA Today. Goldman has reportedly donated $900,000 since January of last year, between its political action committee and employees, with 69 percent going to Democrats.
Many in the president's party have close ties to Wall Street. Greg Craig, the former White House counsel, is representing Goldman Sachs as the company fights fraud charges; Former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt, as Politico points out, lobbies for the company.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid held a fundraiser earlier this year with Goldman executives; as the Journal notes, Democratic New York Sen. Charles Schumer held a fundraiser with John Paulson, who played a major role in the transaction that prompted the fraud charges against Goldman. Paulson called Schumer "one of the few members of Congress who has consistently supported the hedge-fund industry." (Schumer, who has gotten more than $10 million from the industry, is now being criticized for turning against it.)
There has been some pressure to return money that came from Goldman Sachs. Republican Rep. Mark Kirk announced he is returning $20,000 in Goldman donations this week. But White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said today that President Obama won't return the Goldman donations because they didn't come from a Political Action Committee.
The list of ties between Wall Street and lawmakers goes on and on: Mr. Obama got almost 15 million from the securities and investment industry in his presidential campaign; Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who is playing a major role in the regulatory reform push, raises money from the industry; Republicans Richard Shelby, Mitch McConnell and Bob Corker have all solicited money from banking executives.
It is against this backdrop that Democrats and Republicans are debating the details of a bill to regulate the financial industry. Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, said today that negotiations are going well and he is "optimistic" they will reach agreement on a bi-partisan financial reform bill.