Monday, March 23, 2009

Bank bailout money already flowing into top Washington politicians' campaign coffers

(Hat tip: The Daily Beast)

If you think nothing could outrage you more than A.I.G.'s using federal bailout cash to pass out big "retention bonuses" to the knuckleheads who nearly collapsed the global financial system, what if you knew that some of that taxpayers' dough is already flowing into the campaign funds of top Democratic and Republican members of Congress?

Newsweek has the latest on this developing bombshell:

While a few big firms, such as Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase, have curtailed their campaign giving, others are quietly doling out cash to select members of Congress, particularly those who serve on committees that oversee TARP. In recent filings with the Federal Election Commission, the political action committee for Bank of America (which got $15 billion in bailout money) sent out $24,500 in the first two months of 2009, including $1,500 to House [Democratic] Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and another $15,000 to members of the House and Senate banking panels. Citigroup ($25 billion) dished out $29,620, including $2,500 to House GOP Whip Eric Cantor, who also got $10,000 from UBS which, while not a TARP recipient, got $5 billion in bailout funds as an AIG "counterparty." "This certainly appears to be a case of TARP funds being recycled into campaign contributions," says Brett Kappell, a D.C. lawyer who tracks donations. (A spokesman for Cantor did not respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Hoyer said it's his "policy to accept legal contributions.")

I wouldn't want to talk about it either, if I were Cantor, and somebody better tell Hoyer that lately "legal" hasn't worked out as a winning standard for collecting campaign moolah from dubious sources.

It does look like the donors are aware of the downside of close scrutiny, but the donees are still hoping to find ways to pull in the cash without a lot of fuss:

The cash flow is already causing angst inside the Beltway. "The last thing I want to do is wake up one morning and see our PAC check being burned on C-Span," said one bank lobbyist, who asked not to be identified because of the issue's sensitivity. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Financial Services chair Rep. Barney Frank both said recently they won't take donations from TARP recipients. But House Democratic fundraisers have quietly passed the word that the party's campaign committee will resume accepting them—but down the road, not right now. Said one fundraiser, who also requested anonymity, "These are treacherous waters."
I'll say, but then pols who think and act like baracudas are used to a little treachery.

Here's my question: how many of the 328 members of the House of Representatives who voted last week to tax bonuses paid out by 11 major financial institutions have taken or will take money from those companies or their employees or other companies that get federal bailouts?

What do you think of these campaign contributions? Post a comment.

1 comment:

  1. A spokeswoman for Hoyer said it's his "policy to accept legal contributions."

    Talk about threading on thin ice. How about they attach an amendment saying companies who received TARP money can not make political donations/lobbying to that 90% tax bill