[Washington Babylon ]I Thought the Banks Were Broke? | Harper's Magazine

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[Washington Babylon]

I Thought the Banks Were Broke?


Plenty still on hand to buy lawmakers

The American financial industry seems to be teetering on the brink of collapse. The feds have stepped in to save Bear Stearns. Other big firms are hemorrhaging money and racking up huge losses. The stock market is swinging like a yo-yo. And the United States, long dependent on Middle Eastern countries for oil, is now dependent on them for capital as well.

So it’s heartening to see that even during such troubled times, banks and finance institutions have scraped together the money to throw a fundraiser next month for Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas of the Finance Committee. Invitations to the event, to be held at Washington’s fashionable Bistro Bis restaurant on April 15, have just gone out. A quartet of four lobbyists is sponsoring the affair: Steve Patterson of J.P. Morgan; Ed Hill of Bank of America; Heather Wingate of Citigroup; and Scott Talbot of the Financial Services Roundtable. Of course, there are the very same institutions whose funny accounting and lending practices paved the way for the crisis now unfolding, having been abetted all along the way by the Bush Administration and Congress.

Roberts’s political career has been generously underwritten by banks and financial firms. They have given him $392,000 and $231,000, respectively, according to figures from the Center for Responsive Politics. Senator Roberts has been a good friend to his sponsors. So expect them to show their appreciation, and generously, by turning up at Bistro Bis with plenty more money.

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