New numbers obtained by Wall Street watchdogs show that Wall Street poured a whopping $2.1 billion into our elections and lawmaking last year. That’s about as much as Greenland‘s entire GDP.
The jaw-dropping figures are all in a new report from Americans for Financial Reform. The report shows that, fresh off the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Wall Street engaged in a relentless campaign to get Congress to weaken the few rules keeping them in check, and to block even the most minor of changes to a system that—still—lines bankers’ pin-striped suit pockets. Big banks like Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and Citigroup, hedge funds and other financial giants contributed $1.1 billion to election campaigns alone in 2015-2016, and spent an additional $898 million on lobbying.
So what does all that money buy you? Well, President Trump recently sat next to Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase and promised to “do a number on Dodd-Frank,” the landmark 2010 law that imposed much-needed rules on Wall Street. In the next breath Trump said—literally!—that he was gutting the law to help his buddies get even more money. He is populating his administration with Goldman Sachs veterans, and the most powerful people in Congress are doing nothing to stop it.
Of course, that last part is no surprise. Trump’s allies in Congress have been marinating in Wall Street cash for years. In fact, the report reveals that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy are two top recipients of contributions from the financial services industry.
AFR’s report relies on data obtained from the Center for Responsive Politics. We don’t know how much “dark money” Wall Street has put into American politics in the post-Citizens United era, so these are likely extremely conservative numbers.
“The entire apparatus of government operates in an environment flooded with millions of dollars in Wall Street cash on a daily basis,” said Lisa Donner, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform. “If you want to understand why finance too often hurts consumers, investors and businesses far from Wall Street, take a look at these numbers.”
Why does Wall Street spew cash into Washington instead of, oh I don’t know, making a persuasive case for themselves? Because they know we wouldn’t buy a single word they said? Polling has repeatedly shown that the public — Trump voters included! — favor tough regulation of Wall Street.
In other words: there are an awful lot of pitchforks out there, and there’s a growing army of folks who are ready to use them.