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Aug. 26, 2009

Bailed-Out Banks’ PACs, Lobbyists Have Sponsored 70 Fundraisers for Congress, Donated $6 Million Since Election

Public Citizen Report Shows Those Fighting Federal Oversight of Banking Industry Among Biggest Fundraisers

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Lobbyists, political action committees (PACs) and trade associations tied to the banks receiving the most federal bailout money have scheduled 70 fundraisers for members of Congress since Election Day and have made $6 million in federal campaign contributions, according to a Public Citizen report released today.

The report, "Bank-Rolling Congress," contains Public Citizen’s analysis of fundraiser invitations collected by the Sunlight Foundation and campaign contribution disclosures that lobbyists and lobbyist-affiliated PACs are required to make to the Senate. The study was based on an examination of the 10 banks receiving the most Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money and five trade associations opposing a government agency to oversee consumer financial products. (The Sunlight data shows no fundraisers hosted by three of the 10 banks and one of the trade associations. One firm, SunTrust Bank, did not report any lobbying.)

"One Wall Street investment strategy hasn’t changed despite the economic downturn, and that’s spending money on lobbying and campaign contributions," said David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. "In the current system, members of Congress have little choice but to raise mountains of campaign cash, which gives Wall Street and others the opportunity to buy access and influence. We urge the members mentioned in this report to support legislation that offers them an alternative to the corporate money chase."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce PAC and Chamber lobbyists who have worked on financial services issues were behind 35 of the scheduled fundraisers since November, more than any other group. In June, the Chamber announced a projected $100 million campaign to beat back federal regulation.

Lobbyists representing the American Bankers Association and that association’s PAC contributed nearly $2 million in the period studied. Lobbyists and a PAC tied to Citigroup, which is one-third owned by taxpayers, gave more than $1 million. Lobbyists and PACs associated with Goldman Sachs, Mortgage Bankers Association of America, J.P. Morgan Chase and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce each gave more than $500,000.

The Podesta Group, managed by powerful Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta, was the lobbying firm sponsoring the most fundraisers -14. Podesta’s brother, Obama transition team co-chairman John Podesta, was listed as a co-host of one of these events.

Many of fundraisers were slated to be held at pricey restaurants, such as Bobby Van’s Grill, Johnny’s Half Shell, the Caucus Room, The Monocle and Central Michel Richard. Although the 2007 ethics bill prohibits lawmakers from accepting free meals from lobbyists, it does not stop lawmakers from using their campaign funds to pay for the meals.

Just six of the 48 fundraiser honorees have signed on as sponsors of Fair Elections Now Act, which would offer a public funding system for congressional elections.

READ the report.

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