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“Both the Republicans and Democrats have given the financial services industry everything it wanted. The finance sector has endless amounts of money to influence politics and can outgun the bank regulators every time.” That was Richard Christopher Whalen, Managing Director of Institutional Risk Analytics, in an interview here last fall–which goes a long way towards explaining how we got to today’s unfolding news, with Merrill Lynch being sold to Bank of America for roughly $50 billion and Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy protection.
Let’s take a look at the latest casualties in the collapsing financial sector. Opensecrets.org describes Merrill Lynch as having been “a dominant voice in efforts to deregulate the financial services industry.” During the last two decades, the company and its employees have donated nearly $14 million to political campaigns, with about two-thirds of that going to Republicans (that gap narrowed dramatically after Democrats took control of congress in 2006).
Meanwhile, the firm has shelled out nearly $40 million for lobbyists in the last decade alone, with its own in-house efforts supplemented by a host of hired beltway firms. The firm’s lobbyists have included Democrats like:
Merrill’s G.O.P. lobbyists have included Judy Black, wife of key McCain aide Charlie Black, and Vicki Hart, a member of the Women for McCain Steering Committee.
It’s the same rough picture over at Lehman Brothers. The firm, says Opensecrets.org, “has built a strong financial relationship with politicians over the years and coincidentally ranks fourth in the largest contributors in the race for the White House.” Barack Obama has received $395,600 from Lehman and its employees, while John McCain has taken in $117,500.
A total of 271 current members of Congress have received donations from Merrill and its employees, collecting $3 million since 1989, with 72 percent going to Democrats. But GOP Congressman Mike Castle, of the House Financial Services Committee, is the No. 1 recipient of the firm’s PAC, with $38,500 in donations since 1993.
Lehman’s lobbying expenditures since 1998 come to roughly $6 million. Its hired guns have included Vicki Hart from the McCain campaign, David Urban, a former chief of staff for Senator Arlen Specter; and Carlyle Thorsen, a former chief of staff to Tom DeLay. On the Democratic side there’s Andrew Athy, a former counsel to House Energy Committee chairman John Dingell, and Andrew Eskin, a one-time legislative director to Senator Richard Bryan of the Banking Committee.
So how will the presidential campaigns and congressional candidates seek to politically exploit the collapse of the financial sector? Very, very carefully.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”