Sunday, August 11, 2013

How Wall St. works the real Capitol Hill deal

Fighting Dodd-Frank worth money

Washington, D.C. - Vote Republican? Great. Wall Street bought and paid for your ballot.

Democrat? Same story.

Here is how they did it. And why.

Jeb Hensarling, first elected to Congress in 2002 (R-Stephenville, Texas Dist. 5), chairs the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee. He's such an important person on The Hill that he received $282,000 in campaign contributions from PAC's that represent the financial services industry. He's the top recipient in the dash for cash.

Fundraising is key to any congressional career, but when you occupy a seat on the committee most relevant to the cost of doing business in investment banking and derivatives trading, a freshman with little knowledge of the world of finance finds his chances at seniority to be gold-plated - over night.

The financial players consider it an investment. They bid heavily and reap huge returns. Their largesse finds its way to politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Each of the seven freshmen Democrats who made it onto the Financial Services Committee in their first term during this session have raised more than the committee's most senior Democrat.

How big is the money? Here's a clue. PAC's spent $9.4 million on the re-election of Financial Services Committee members, nearly $2 million more than their counterparts contributed to the re-election campaigns of members of the Armed Services Committee. 

That's part of why it became necessary to install four tiers of seats to accommodate the 61 members who now occupy Wall Street's corner of the Rayburn Office building – up from a mere 41 in 1980.

It's hard to say how a financial novice like Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky), a freshman from the Blue Grass, snagged his key committee assignment through the office of Speaker John Boehner, but it would be safe to say he got there with a little help from his friends.

In his first six months, he has raised $150,000 from PAC's that service financial services outfits, banking houses and securities traders.

Recently, Rep. Barr has received a lot of press attention from the likes of the “New York Times,” network television, “The Huffington Post,” and policy wonk blogsters of every description.

Apparently, when you're an overnight success on the Financial Services Committee, you get just as much ink when you turn down interviews as you do by granting them.

Said his flack, “People support him because they agree with him.”

His campaign slogan: “Fighting to put Kentuckians back to work!”

Like Mt. Everest, it's there. That's worth money.

Industry lobbyists reportedly crowded his office at a recent reception prior to a key committee hearing in which he promised and delivered to fight a provision that would have eliminated a $500 million tax break for credit unions.

Vote early and often! And above all, dear hearts, avoid saloons where the beer is not on the house on election days.

Lagniappe. Au revoir, cher.

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