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Wall Street's campaign contributions are flowing mostly to Democrats

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There's still a week to go before the midterm elections, but Wall Street has already voted -- with its campaign contributions. 

The securities and finance industry has backed Democratic congressional candidates 63 percent to 37 percent, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Democratic candidates and political action committees have received $56.8 million, compared to Republicans' $33.4 million. (The data cover the current electoral cycle through Sept. 30.)

It's the first time in a decade that the securities industry has given more to Democrats than Republicans. The broader sector of finance, insurance and real estate is following a similar pattern. Its firms have given $174 million to Democratic candidates against $157 million to Republicans.

"When Wall Street, or any industry, is giving money to politicians, they're often giving in hopes of gaining influence with legislators," said Michael Beckel, research manager at Issue One, a nonprofit that works to reduce money in politics.

"Any industry of this size wants to have friends on both sides," he said.

Wall Street is also the top funder to leadership PACs, a recent report from Issue One found. These political action committees allow politicians to spend money on behalf of other politicians (as well as for lavish personal expenses, critics say).

Congress' agenda next year could be substantial. Institutions like Wells Fargo, Equifax and SoFi continue to make news for misdeeds that, in some cases, occurred a year or more ago. A number of cities across the U.S. are considering creating publicly owned banks. These issues and others related to the financial industry seem likely to come in front of federal lawmakers.

Overall, businesses favor Republican incumbents, Bloomberg reports, with business PACs supporting Republicans running for reelection by about 62 percent.

Wall Street expects split Congress

Democrats are favored to win a majority in the House of Representatives, while Republicans are expected to retain control of the Senate, polling shows. The highest-ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters, would likely become its chair in that case. In that role, Waters, who's known as a liberal firebrand, has the potential to slow the deregulatory push coming from the White House.

"The biggest debate surrounding the election results will be the effect on President Trump's deregulatory agenda if one or both chambers of Congress change hands," Raymond James analysts wrote in a research note Wednesday. They suggest the House could potentially take up some of the enforcement role of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which has stepped back as an aggressive regulator under Acting Director Mick Mulvaney.

Perhaps to hedge against that possibility, the Democrats Wall Street favors have tended to be moderates, Bloomberg noted: Representatives Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Georgia's David Scott and Connecticut's Jim Himes, a former Goldman Sachs banker.

"The Democrats are poised to determine the legislative agenda in the House," said Beckel, "and the industry could be swinging to them, making a bet that's where the cards will fall."

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