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Goldman Sachs Shareholder Proposes Bank Run For Political Office; Bank Declines

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GOLDMAN SACHS PUBLIC OFFICE
Goldman Sachs Group CEO Lloyd Blankfein (C) leaves the White House after a meeting with President Obama. Goldman has rejected a shareholder proposal that it run for public office, too. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) | Getty Images

The movie could have been called "Mr. Squid Goes To Washington."

Unfortunately, Goldman Sachs has rejected a shareholder's proposal that it run for political office as the next logical step in the corporations-are-people paradigm. Goldman's declaration, first reported by Bloomberg, came in response to a request from shareholder John Harrington, citing the Supreme Court's decision, in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, that corporations are people that have a right to exercise free speech by spending unlimited money on politics.

Harrington says Goldman is already warping the political process by pumping cash into political action committees and filling the ranks of government with its alumni. Everybody would be better off if Goldman just went ahead and ran for office itself, Harrington says.

"The Proponent believes that such activity would do less to undermine the integrity of the national political process and the company's reputation than the manner in which the Company currently wields influence over the U.S. government," Harrington's proposal says.

Goldman rejected the proposal and asked the Securities and Exchange Commission not to let other shareholders vote on it. Goldman claims that it doesn't contribute corporate money to PACs and that of course Citizens United doesn't let companies run for office, duh. Anyway, Goldman is too busy doing other stuff.

"The Company is a global financial services firm providing investment banking, securities and investment management services to a substantial and diversified client base," Goldman wrote to the SEC. "It currently has no involvement, never has had any involvement, and has no plans to become involved in the business of running for political office."

The SEC took Goldman's side, meaning shareholders won't get a chance to vote on the proposal by Harrington, president of Harrington Investments, which promotes "socially responsible" investing.

It's too bad, really. Having Goldman Sachs in office would at least have cut out the middle men, those bought-and-paid-for congresspeople that do Goldman's bidding already. It could have given itself a nice bonus for getting a government job, as is standard practice on Wall Street. Figuring out Goldman's political party would have been interesting, too. Goldman would have been to the left of the Republicans on gay marriage but probably to the right of, say, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on financial reform.

Harrington is not the first to suggest that a company run for office, and Goldman would not have been the first company to attempt it. A few years back a public-relations company called Murray Hill ran for congress in Maryland as a Republican. As the Economist pointed out at the time, one big problem for Murray Hill's candidacy was that it was only five years old, and Maryland law requires that candidates for office be at least 18.

Age requirements are not a problem for Goldman Sachs, which is a spry 144 years old. But the company often referred to as "Government Sachs" might already think it has enough influence in politics, with former squidders William Dudley, Mario Draghi and Mark Carney in positions of importance at the central banks of the U.S., Europe and England, respectively, Bloomberg notes.

Goldman last year gave more than $4.3 million to PACS and other groups and $3.6 million to individual candidates, including $1 million to Mitt Romney, according to Open Secrets.

Goldman also spent $3.5 million on lobbying last year, and 47 of its 51 lobbyists once held government jobs, according to Open Secrets.

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