Bank CEOs: What About the Campaign Cash?

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As the CEOs of big Wall Street firms testify before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission this week, Public Campaign has joined with Common Cause to ask Commission Chairman Phil Angelides to explore the role campaign contributions from the financial industry to members of Congress played in weakening the financial regulatory system that led to the economic collapse.

These Wall Street investors--some of the most brilliant financial minds in America--have invested $63 million in campaign contributions since 2000. These bankers don't make that kind of investment without expecting a big return.

In the letter released today, we've asked the commission to:

  • Review e-mail traffic from company staff, lobbyists, and other consultants to members of Congress and their aides.
  • Review any internal corporate documents that reference campaign fundraising.
  • Seek testimony from Wall Street lobbyists to more fully understand the political and policy strategies they employed to influence lawmakers and the role of campaign contributions in carrying out those strategies.
  • Explore any written or verbal requests made by lawmakers for fundraising assistance from financial industry leaders or lobbyists.

The CEOs questioned today--whose banks were bailed out with taxpayer money for problems they created--have spent millions of dollars on campaign contributions and lobbying fees to maintain the weak regulatory environment that allowed them to derail our economy. Even today, these politically connected firms are working to gut or kill financial reforms moving through Congress.

In today's second panel, Peter Solomon testified before the commission that he also believed campaign contributions need to be explored. "The Commission might examine the role of campaign contributions as they relate to Federal Government's regulatory structure," Solomon said. "The financial community has become increasingly active in Washington and is now one of the largest contributors to Federal political campaigns. Even today, one can see the detrimental effects of its lobbying on Government action to create transparent, accountable, and efficient markets."

Any analysis that gets to the roots of what happened must include an in-depth look at how campaign contributions played a role on the policy making process.