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Report: Wall Street Spent $5 Billion For Political Influence

(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
A group called Wall Street Watch is out with a report that finds that "Wall Street investment firms, commercial banks, hedge funds, real estate companies and insurance conglomerates made $1.7 billion in political contributions and spent another $3.4 billion on lobbyists" between 1998 and 2008.

The report, "Sold Out: How Wall Street and Washington Betrayed America," concludes that the contributions were "aimed at undercutting federal regulation" and ultimately "led directly to the current financial collapse."

The two men behind the report are California lawyer Harvey Rosenfield of the nonprofit Consumer Education Foundation and Robert Weissman of Essential Information, a Washington nonprofit "that seeks to curb excessive corporate power."

The report argues that the lobbying and contributions kept financial derivatives from being regulated, led to the repeal of regulatory barriers between commercial banks and investment banks and kept the government from stepping into halt predatory subprime lending. (The authors list "12 Key Policy Decisions Led to Cataclysm" here.)

"Depression-era programs that would have prevented the financial meltdown that began last year were dismantled, and the warnings of those who foresaw disaster were drowned in an ocean of political money," Rosenfield said in a release.

The authors don't blame either political party, noting that roughly 55 percent of the donations went to Republicans and 45 percent to Democrats. In the 2008 election cycle, they note, Democrats received slightly more than half of the financial sector's contributions.

They also say that 142 of the lobbyists employed by 20 "leading financial firms" during this period "were previously high-ranking officials or employees in the Executive Branch or Congress."

The report can be found here.

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