02/04/2009 01:47 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Banks Buying Both Parties To Get TARP Money--New Report

I would have put a "BREAKING" on this title but, in some ways, this is not a new story--just another twist to the same-old political as usual. I'm all for the cap on executive compensation announced by the president. But, the culture of Washington is not changing--and it's getting worse.

Today, the Center for Responsive Politics, the non-profit, non-partisan organization that tracks the influence of money in politics, tells us this disturbing fact:

The struggling companies whose freewheeling business practices have contributed to the country's economic woes are getting a lucrative return on at least one of their investments. Beneficiaries of the $700 billion bailout package in the finance and automotive industries have spent a total of $114.2 million on lobbying in the past year and contributions toward the 2008 election, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics has found. The companies' political activities have, in part, yielded them $305.2 billion from the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), an extraordinary return of 267,208 percent.


Some of the top recipients of contributions from companies receiving TARP money are the same members of Congress who chair committees charged with regulating the financial sector and overseeing the effectiveness of this unprecedented government program. They include Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs (he received $854,200 from the companies in the 2008 election cycle, including money to his presidential campaign) and Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, chair of the Senate Finance Committee (he received $279,000). In total, members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Senate Finance Committee and House Financial Services Committee received $5.2 million from TARP recipients in the 2007-2008 election cycle. President Obama collected at least $4.3 million from employees at these companies for his presidential campaign.

This is a bi-partisan affair:

In total, 161 companies approved for TARP money gave $37.5 million to federal candidates, parties and committees in the 2007-2008 election cycle, with 57 percent of that going to Democrats (post-election data is not yet available). The employees of these companies, rather than their political action committees, gave the bulk of that, at $26.1 million, or 70 percent. These two groups of donors seem to have differed in their partisan allegiance--individual employees gave 61 percent of their donations to Democrats, while PACs were more evenly divided, giving 51 percent to Republicans. Some of the companies to give the most in contributions, including Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, are also among the biggest donors of all time to U.S. politics.

The center's report has a nifty little chart breaking down each company's return on "investment".

But, the point is this: if you want real change, the above has got to stop. Mr. President?