Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wall Street Bails Out Republican Party

Crony Capitalism: Wall Street's Favorite Politicians


Zach Carter
Campaign for America's Future
Copyright 2010

A full 90 members of Congress who voted to bailout Wall Street in 2008 failed to support financial reform reining in the banks that drove our economy off a cliff.

But when you examine campaign contribution data, it's really no surprise that these particular lawmakers voted to mortgage our economic future to Big Finance: This election cycle, they've raked in over $48.8 million from the financial establishment. Over the course of their Congressional careers, the figure swells to a massive $176.9 million.

The complete list of these Crony Capitalists is below, along with the money they pulled in from Big Finance, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (opensecrets.org).

The career data goes back to 1989.

Of the 69 House members who voted with Wall Street on both the bailout and financial reform, 60 are Republicans, while nine are Democrats.

All 21 Senators who voted with Wall Street on both issues are Republicans, and Republicans raked in over 90 percent of the total campaign contributions.

Here's a chart showing Wall Street's total contributions to this crowd for the 2010 cycle, by political party:

And here's one showing total Wall Street contributions over the course of their careers:

These aren't the only politicians carrying water for Wall Street—only the most flagrant.

Some of the bank lobby's savviest servants on Capitol Hill do their dirty work early in the legislative process. They push through technical amendments and deploy complex procedural tricks to defang a bill, but when the final vote comes, they can still create the appearance of taking a stand against Wall Street's interests.

Rep. Melissa Bean, D-Ill., is a master of this technique, and Tea Party favorite Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., was able to claim credit for voting in favor of reform after demanding—and receiving—a host of big bank giveaways in return for his vote.

Nor are Republicans the only recipients of Wall Street largesse. Bean, for instance, has pulled in over $773,000 from Wall Street in the 2010 cycle alone, while working overtime to carve loopholes into new consumer protections (she's scored $2.4 million over the course of her Congressional career). And the Democratic leadership has received millions as well.

When it comes to dealing out economic damage, no special interest group has been able to wreak more havoc that Big Finance. After inflating an $8 trillion housing bubble and sparking a recession that has cost the economy over 8 million jobs, public pressure to crack down on Wall Street was intense. And the public is still clamoring for Wall Street accountability—after two years in office, the Wall Street reform bill remains the most popular legislative effort championed by President Barack Obama, and getting tough on Big Finance has been a reliable re-election strategy for embattled incumbents.

But harnessing the Wall Street beast proved a tortuously long and difficult process, taking nearly two years despite its economic urgency. And while the bill that Congress approved this year has plenty of virtues, many of the most critical reforms were simply not addressed by the legislation. The too-big-to-fail financial behemoths that taxpayers bailed out in 2008 are even bigger today, banks can still gamble with taxpayer money, and the foreclosure crisis continues to ravage neighborhoods across the country. Until these issues are addressed, the U.S. economy will remain beholden to Wall Street's bonus-crazed whims.

But if you follow the money, it's obvious why so much work remains to be done on financial reform. This year alone, Wall Street spent a staggering $251 million fighting financial reform. According to a separate analysis of campaign contributions performed by Public Citizen, lawmakers who voted with Wall Street on both the bailout and reform received nearly triple the campaign cash of those who opposed Wall Street (figures in the Public Citizen study don't correspond to those I've compiled, as Public Citizen examined contributions from 2007 through July of 2010).

Despite the popularity of Wall Street reform, 90 members of Congress didn't even want to publicly pretend to support reining in almost universally reviled banks. When you're trying to decide which bums to throw out in November, here's one place to start. These members of Congress are okay with setting up economic calamities, and they don't mind paying for them with your tax dollars.

Here's how Wall Street's contributions break down among Wall Street's 21 Senate Cronies. For 2010:

For their careers:

And here are all of the Cronies, along with their Wall Street hauls:

Senator 2010 Wall Street Cash Career Wall Street Cash
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) $1,600,000 $4,900,000
Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) $1,500,000 $2,600,000
Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) $333,600 $3,300,000
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) $1,500,000 $3,300,000
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) $2,500,000 $3,500,000
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) $451,700 $1,200,000
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) $3,100,000 $3,300,000
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) $3,200,000 $4,700,000
Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) $1,300,000 $2,600,000
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) $1,100,000 $2,000,000
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) $233,200 $1,100,000
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) $1,400,000 $2,600,000
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) $1,400,000 $4,700,000
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) $1,500,000 $4,200,000
Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) $2,800,000 $3,800,000
Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) $412,200 $2,500,000
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) $947,600 $34,000,000
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) $4,300,000 $5,300,000
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) $268,200 $909,700
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) $1,600,000 $3,900,000
Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) $435,200 $2,800,000
21 Republicans

0 Democrats

Senate Total $31,881,700 97,209,700
House Member 2010 Wall Street Cash Career Wall Street Cash
Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La. $106,500 $422,300
Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala. $611,600 $4,400,000
Rep. Gresham Barrett, R-S.C. $20,400 $806,700
Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark. $24,900 $663,700
Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill. $395,000 $1,900,000
Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. $1,200,000 $3,800,000
Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio $1,300,000 $3,700,000
Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala. $90,400 $702,200
Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif. $190,000 $733,400
Rep. John Boozman, R-Ark. $257,700 $491,000
Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla. $123,100 $722,200
Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va. $92,700 $1,400,000
Rep. Charles Boustany Jr, R-La. $226,300 $934,600
Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas $157,000 $840,500
Rep. Henry Brown, R-S.C. $35,700 $494,000
Rep. Vernon Buchanan, R-Fla. $336,800 $1,400,000
Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif. $180,300 $940,300
Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich. $588,000 $1,700,000
Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif. $413,400 $1,200,000
Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. $2,100,000 $4,400,000
Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del. $749,100 $3,200,000
Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C. $23,400 $502,500
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. $110,000 $686,000
Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas $161,500 $711,800
Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla. $86,100 $717,000
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas $90,600 $606,900
Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. $177,900 $881,000
Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas $324,200 $1,900,000
Rep.Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich. $8,500 $292,200
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo. $143,900 $904,400
Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Okla ($1,000) $340,700
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J. $86,200 $840,300
Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa. $251,600 $1,800,000
Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas $140,000 $1,100,000
Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif. $171,500 $1,100,000
Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich. ($1,000) $300,600
Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C. 0 $572,800
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. $173,900 $1,600,000
Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. $1,900,000 $4,200,000
Rep. John Kline, R-Minn $170,900 $989,100
Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif. $31,800 $748,000
Rep. Daniel E. Lungren, R-Calif. $147,700 $622,500
Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif. $132,100 $1,100,000
Rep. Gary Miller, R-Calif. $144,500 $902,000
Rep. Harry Mitchell, D-Ariz. $130,900 $558,000
Rep. Sue Myrick, R-S.C. $93,600 $1,200,000
Rep. Soloman Ortiz, D-Texas $40,200 $381,700
Rep. George Radanovich, R-Calif. $24,900 $462,000
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala. $128,200 $1,000,000
Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky. $50,200 $468,000
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. $127,000 $986,000
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. $531,500 $1,900,000
Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio $121,900 $519,700
Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz. $39,700 $1,200,000
Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa. $30,700 $403,600
Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Ind. $20,500 $266,900
Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo. $112,500 $524,200
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas $258,900 $1,300,000
Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind. $40,500 $405,800
Rep. Zack Space, D-Ohio $169,300 $476,300
Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla. $79,200 $494,800
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb. $202,600 $1,400,000
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas $42,500 $603,400
Rep. Patrick Tiberi, R-Ohio $555,500 $2,800,000
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. $81,700 $929,400
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore. $180,700 $732,400
Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn. 0 $715,700
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. $155,500 $580,200
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va. $90,400 $1,100,000
60 Republicans $15,873,400 $72,443,800
9 Democrats $1,108,400 $7,233,000
House Total $16,981,800 $79,676,800

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© 2010 Campaign for America's Future: www.ourfuture.org

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"It's high time the Alamo RMA had an independent audit of its books. Better yet, let's close its doors altogether."

Toll agency defaults on loan from City


By Terri Hall
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2010

The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA), Bexar County's toll authority, has defaulted on its loan from the City of San Antonio taxpayers.

The loan was due to be paid on September 1, 2010. On March 24, 2005, the City authorized a $500,000 loan to the ARMA to help fund start-up expenses. Bexar County loaned them $750,000, only to then yank back $500,000 of it in 2007. The agency has yet to repay either of the remaining loans in full. The City's loan has been the center of controversy before since it lacks the authority to loan money. The City's taxpayers are not a bank, though these days, it seems our politicians think we are...

Of course, the ARMA claims its problem is a lack of a revenue stream, ie - taxpayer money, to pay it back. What happens to you and I if we default on our home or car loan? Do we get to send a letter to the bank and say, "Sorry, I don't have the money right now"? Nope, you'd be looking at a foreclosure notice or repossession. That's essentially what the RMA did. It's asking for an extension on the loan. With the ARMA officially in default, taxpayers and the elected officials who brought us this mess need to renew efforts to pull the plug on this useless, second tier bureaucracy that duplicates TxDOT's duties to the tune of $40 million with nothing to show for it. The 281/1604 southern interchange ramps and superstreet projects its doing can and should be done by TxDOT.

In March of 2009, three county commissioners had considered dissolving the ARMA, but the ARMA has managed to stay on life support using our money to lobby to keep its doors open through tax hikes at every opportunity. The agency hired two lobbyists, Chris Shields and Brian Cassidy, who were paid more than $24,000 during the 81st Legislature.

Just a cursory look inside the RMA's books cries out for more scrutiny. City Manager Sheryl Sculley and her staff have pointed to several problems on the RMA's most recent financial statement. The ARMA Board recently approved its budget. While the operating budget shows no increase in salaries, it doesn't break out the individual salaries or the benefits that each employee receives as they did last year when we made a big stink about Executive Director Terry Brechtel's $10,000 bonus in a down economy.

So my question is, will Brechtel still receive her $10,000 bonus since that was part of last year's compensation package? Wouldn't the salaries be less the $10,000 in the change column if she weren't getting one? The whole format is shady considering the controversy ...so if she's still scheduled to get one, that's an outrageous abuse of taxpayer money for an already wasteful agency that's merely duplicating TxDOT's duties. Their total salaries/benefits/compensation for not even a dozen employees is still $1.2 million!

They're charging taxpayers $637,000 for "management fees" on the 281 superstreet, but only $80,000 for the superstreet on 1604. Why such a huge difference?

They're charging "management fees" everywhere:
  • $4.4 million for the two environmental studies on 281 & 1604
  • $717,000 for the superstreets
  • $1.5 million for the interchange plus $9.6 million when you count the construction "management" fees
  • $1.3 million for 281
  • $1 million for 1604

Again, why is the cost less for 1604 when that project is 35 miles versus 7.9 miles for 281? Then there's the $1.3 million under the generic "general research" management fees making it a grand total $15.4 million in just "management fees" alone. That's $15.4 million for what we already have a highway department to do!

If their total operating expenses equal $1.5 million, why are they charging the taxpayers $15.4 million in "management fees" (these are entirely separate fees from what they're paying the contractors for environmental work, design, engineering, public involvement, etc. when TxDOT has paid staff sitting around that can do much of what the RMA hires contractors to do at a much lower cost to taxpayers)?

If we're to believe ARMA's Director of Community Development, Leroy Alloway, who told the Stone Oak newspaper Welcome Home in its September 10 issue that one of the purposes for the Environmental Impact Statement on 281 is to "rule out toll roads," then why do we need an ARMA, whose sole purpose for existing is to toll local roads? We have a highway department that should have built the overpasses and expanded US 281 five years ago!

Meanwhile, ARMA Chairman Bill Thornton went on a tirade at the last board meeting saying San Antonio NEEDS toll roads and that we can't be a genuine "big city" without them. Yet we're to believe the ARMA is conducting an unbiased legitimate study of non-toll options for US 281 and Loop 1604? Yeah right! They think we are stupid.

These questions deserve answers (partial list of answers by ARMA here) and it's high time the ARMA had an independent audit of its books. Better yet, let's close its doors altogether.

© 2010 San Antonio Express-News: www.voices.mysanantonio.com

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE