01/27/2012 05:53 pm ET

Wall Street Political Donations Jump 700 Percent Over Two Decades

It's influence in Washington can be debated, but Wall Street's growing interest in the nation's capitol cannot.

The number of political donors working in the finance, insurance and real estate sectors and giving more than $10,000 has skyrocketed 405 percent over the past two decades, according to an analysis of campaign contributions by the Sunlight Foundation. The financial sector's overall contributions to political campaigns have surged even more over the same period, rising by 700 percent, the analysis found.

Critics continue to lament the role of corporate money in Washington, and some have taken to the streets.
Occupy protesters gathered in Washington and New York earlier this month to demonstrate against the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, which allowed corporations to give unlimited donations to political campaigns.

Americans appears to agree. By a margin of three to one, they say they think there should be a limit to how much corporations can donate to political campaigns, according to a recent poll by Legal Progress, a program run by the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

Some of the presidential candidates themselves have criticized their competitors for close relationships with Wall Street. Before dropping out of the race, Texas governor Rick Perry stopped short of explicitly criticizing Mitt Romney in a South Carolina campaign stop earlier this month, but he did deride the cozy relationship between Wall Street and Washington and highlighted plants where Romney's private equity firm had cut jobs, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Romney's far from the first politician to be criticized for his ties to Washington. While October New York Times analysis found that Mitt Romney had raised more in 2011 from Wall Street firms than Obama, an October Washington Post analysis said that Obama raised more money from financial sector workers than all of the Republican candidates combined.

After taking a strong stand against certain practices on Wall Street, Obama hasn't received the support he saw during his first election campaign. The turnout at a $10,000-per-plate fundraiser headlined by billionaire investor Warren Buffett was "disappointing," according to one guest cited by the New York Post.

Perhaps making matters worse, Obama returned money from one of his major Wall Street donors last year. After former MF Global CEO John Corzine came under fire for his role in the firm's collapse, Obama returned more than $70,000 in donations from the former Senator and New Jersey governor.

(H/T The Atlantic)