The 41 Senate Republicans who signed a letter of opposition to the Democratic financial regulatory reform bill have on average received 25 percent more money than Dems from Wall Street over the past six years.
The average Senate Republican has amassed $2.1 million from the financial, insurance, and real estate sector (affectionately known as the FIRE sector) since 2004, according to a report by watchdog groups Common Cause, Public Campaign and Public Citizen. The average Senate Democrat has taken in $1.6 million in that time.
However, the top recipients of FIRE campaign donations in the 2010 election cycle are Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Sen. Chuck Schumer's (N.Y.) campaign is leading with $3 million -- more than twice the amount any other senator has taken from Wall Street. Fellow New Yorker Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand comes in second, with $1.4 million, followed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (Conn.). Among Republicans this cycle, Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) has taken the most FIRE money: $972,814.
"The fascinating thing about this industry is it's probably one of the most 'buy-partisan' industries out there," said David Donnelly of the Public Campaign Action Fund, which advocates for public financing of elections. "They really do buy both sides of the aisle."
What does the FIRE sector get for its contributions? Maybe nothing more than the chance to bend a senator's ear at a fundraiser -- or maybe special treatment for a client in the form of a "carve-out." Lobbyists are circulating a list of carve-outs in the Democrats' bill. Private equity funds, for instance, are exempt from several requirements.
"Obtaining a carve-out isn't rocket science," a Republican FIRE lobbyist told HuffPost last week. "Just give Chairman Dodd and Chuck Schumer a shitload of money."
On Monday, Senate Democrats blasted Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Banking Committee, for attending a lunch fundraiser for New Hampshire Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte ahead of a 5 p.m. test vote on reform. On Friday, while President Obama urged Wall Street executives to play along with reform, Senate Republicans had a fundraiser with FIRE lobbyists. Harry Reid has similarly been caught on FIRE.
When House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently urged JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon to give more to Republicans, Democrats in both the House and Senate bent over backwards to rebut the claim that the GOP is the party of Wall Street.
Despite the constant accusations of "backroom deals" by the Wall Street, it seems that FIRE giving really is buy-partisan.