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Financial Industry Gives 250% More to Sway Key Legislators, Public Citizen Reveals at Goldman Sachs Protest

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SEIU President Andy Stern is joining hundreds of progressives -- and potentially more -- in a newly organized protest outside the Washington, D.C. offices of Goldman Sachs on Monday at noon. SEIU is part of a co-sponsoring coalition, Americans For Financial Reform, that also includes other unions, such as the AFL-CIO, and the advocacy groups Public Citizen and National People's Action that are planning the march.

Fury is mounting over Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein's comment that's he's just a banker "doing God's work" and the ongoing risk "too big to fail" firms like Goldman Sachs pose to the economy. As an SEIU press release declared:

SEIU President Andy Stern and hundreds of taxpayers will converge on the Washington headquarters of Goldman Sachs to demand an end to multi-billion dollar bonuses and the Too Big To Fail Doctrine and call for immediate Congressional action on real financial reform. This is the latest in a national mobilization launched last month as 5,000 taxpayers from 20 states converged on the American Bankers Association convention in Chicago to demand Wall Street and big banks stop fighting reforms that will protect our families from the next crisis.

Public Citizen is also unveiling a report showing that the financial services industry gave 250% more money to key members of Congressional leadership and financial committees than it did to other members. Here's an update:

While Congress has debated legislation to
reform Wall Street, the financial services industry has showered members
of the Senate and House banking committees with about two and a half
times as much money, on average, as other members of Congress, according
to a new Public Citizen report.

The industry - including banks, investment firms, insurance
companies and real estate companies - has given $42 million in campaign
contributions to lawmakers and their leadership political action
committees since the current election cycle began in November 2008. The
industry has concentrated its contributions on members of the House and
Senate banking and the congressional leadership, the report showed.

The 94 members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban
Affairs and the House Committee on Financial Services, which are
considering new banking regulations, have received nearly $15 million in
campaign contributions since the 2010 election cycle began in November
2008, the analysis shows.

Members of the Senate leadership have received nearly three times their
share from the industry while House leaders have received close to seven
and a half times as much as their congressional peers.

"The finance sector is investing most heavily in the very
lawmakers who will decide the new rules of the road," said Public
Citizen President Robert Weissman, who was scheduled to speak Monday at
a rally in front of Goldman Sachs' Washington, D.C., headquarters to
demand Congress take immediate action on reform. Also to appear at the
rally were National People's Action and the Service Employees
International Union.

There is hardball politics at play on both sides of this fight, as Politico reported:

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein may have had his tongue in his cheek when he said his bankers were doing "God's work," but the company's critics aren't laughing.

In fact, a couple hundred of them -- led by Service Unions International Union president Andy Stern -- plan to gather outside of Goldman Sachs' Washington offices Monday morning to protest the firm's mega-bonuses, and demand the end of the "too big to fail" doctrine, according to a press release.

The event will be held [at noon ]outside 101 Constitution Ave. N.W., an office building that's home to many of the most powerful lobbyists and corporations in town, including Goldman...

Among their demands, the protesters will say that Goldman bankers should donate their reported $23 billion in bonuses to foreclosure prevention programs.

Public Citizen will release a new report during the event analyzing how much the various bailout recipient like Goldman are spending lobbying on financial reform, which the groups say is aimed at squashing real reform...

But Goldman and other Wall Street firms are very opposed to a new idea gaining traction on the "to big" front -- legislation that would empower the federal government to preemptively break up big, complex or interconnected firms even if they're healthy. Goldman is a member of a coalition, Partnership of New York City, that will meet with the New York congressional delegation next week to urge their resistance to such measures...

Blankfein's defense of the investment firm and new resistance to proposals to break up oversized firms stand in sharp contrast to the firm's track record. It helped spur virtually all major crashes since the Great Depression through the manipulation of markets and its s latest role was selling to investors nearly-worthless mortgage-backed securities while secretly betting that the housing market would crash, according to McClatchy newspapers.

(You can read more about the factors driving this protest, and the current state of play of financial reform on Capitol Hill, at the Working In These Times Blog):

As I previously observed in The Huffington Post:

Blankfein's latest comment comes in the wake of a startling claim by another Goldman Sachs International adviser, Bryan Griffiths: "We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all." As Think Progress pointed out about this assertion:

The Wall Street Journal reported that Wall Street banks are on pace to pay out a record $140 billion in compensation this year. "Workers at 23 top investment banks, hedge funds, asset managers and stock and commodities exchanges can expect to earn even more than they did the peak year of 2007," the Journal found.


The New York-based investment bank Goldman Sachs has "set aside $16.7 billion for compensation and benefits in the first nine months of 2009," which is a 46 percent increase from last year. But according to a Goldman adviser, Wall Street's record pay is necessary "to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all."

The real truth about Goldman Sachs has been exposed, in part, in a briefing paper compiled by SEIU:

Big Bank Profile: Goldman Sachs

Federal taxpayer bailout funds received: $63.6 billion
Profits for the years 1998-2008: $46.8 billion
Profits for the first half of 2009: $5.2 billion
2007 Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein pay: $70.3 million
2008 bonus pool: $4.8 billion
First half 2009 bonus and compensation pool: $11.4 billion
Bonuses (top 5 execs) last 10 years: $543.4 million
Effective tax rate in 2008: 0.6%
Offshore subsidiaries in tax havens: 29
Lobbying fees in first 9 months after bailout: $1.8 million.
Campaign contributions in 2008 federal elections: $7.1 million

Click here to fight back against big bank greed.

The upshot is that the firm played a major role in bankrolling the worst of the subprime lenders, then wasted and gambled away much of the billions in bailouts and guarantees. Here are some highlights of their bailout abuses:

Profiteering off the bailout and gambling with taxpayers' money:

* Goldman Sachs put taxpayers on the hook for up to $63.6 billion in bailout funds and programs plus an unknown amount from the Federal Reserve's $8 trillion in emergency programs. While Goldman has since repaid its $10 billion in TARP money, allowing it to avoid government oversight on executive compensation, it doesn't have to repay the $12.9 billion received through the AIG bailout, which is even larger than the $10 billion it repaid...

* Instead of using the bailout funds to shore up its capital base or expand lending, Goldman has issued its highest dividends to shareholders since 2003, shopped for acquisitions internationally, lavished bonuses on the same financial personnel who contributed to the crisis, and increased the amount of capital it's put at risk...

* Goldman's bailout money has gone little to help struggling homeowners. Goldman's loan servicing operation, Litton Loan Servicing LP, has started trial mortgage modifications for only 3% of its 103,871 borrowers who are eligible for the Obama Administration's Making Home Affordable Program (and are at least 60 days past due)....

* Moreover, Goldman is back in the mortgage securitization business, repackaging the mortgages that have been stuck on their books since the housing bubble burst and now selling them as a new product. Known as "re-remics", they simply pull out the worst of the bonds to boost the credit rating to make the sale, kind of like what brought on the financial crisis in the first place.

It's little wonder that Public Citizen, when announcing the protest last week, framed the issues in a dramatic way. It's populist rage that's seemingly quite well-justified:

Goldman Sachs and the other banksters are back to making record profits and on track to hand out multi-billion dollar bonuses. Meanwhile, back in the real economy, unemployment has risen above 10 percent, millions have lost their homes and the banks keep nickel and diming us.

Enough is enough - it's time to take our demands for more accountability to the streets.

Join with Public Citizen's president, Robert Weissman, and hundreds of other fed up consumers and activists in a protest in front of the Goldman Sachs offices on Capitol Hill this Monday, Nov. 16! Let's demand an end to billions in bonuses!

What: Protest the banksters in front of Goldman Sachs and rally at the Capitol.

Where: Goldman Sachs, 101 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, D.C. (close to Union Station).

When: Monday, Nov. 16 at High Noon.

Too big to fail is too big to exist. It's time to break up the banks and put a watchdog to work for everyday Americans.