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Is Congress Beholden To Big Banks?

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Is Congress Beholden To Big Banks?

Wells Fargo may have let its latest scandal break too close to Congressional elections. An angry American public are asking questions of their Congressmen. Questions such as "Why have no banking executives been punished for destroying the world financial system in 2008? Why are banks allowed to get away with endless instances of fraud, market manipulation, and other illegal activities, with nothing but a fine?"

This is leading more people to look at who their Congressmen are taking money from.

Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf's testimony before the Senate Banking Committee follows that of many other Big Bank CEOs. Leaders from Goldman Sachs, MF Global, and JP Morgan Chase have each been called on the carpet by Congress over the last few years, yet nothing has happened, other than politicians playing to the camera for the folks back home.

Spotlight On Donations

However, reporters are giving this latest illegal scheme by Wells Fargo employees more attention than previous transgressions. Kevin G. Hall at McClatchyDC dove into FEC records, and came out with which politicians on the Senate Banking Committee have accepted political donations from Wells Fargo.


The Center For Responsive Politics ( has tracked where ALL the Wells Fargo money has gone this election cycle: $1.975 million to candidates; $537,161 to the two political parties; $34,173 to leadership PACs. Wells Fargo has given a total of $2,750,828 in political donations this election cycle. (They have also spent $2.4 million in lobbying so far this eyar, and nearly $6.4 million in 2015.) The Center also notes that 16 out of 19 Wells Fargo lobbyists in 2015-2016 have previously held government jobs.

With all this attention on where and to whom Wells Fargo is spreading the cash, we thought it would be interesting to see which of the major contributors to the Senate Banking Committee were from the financial sector.

opensecrets_databy200x72Using data from the Center For Responsive Politics for this election cycle, we looked up how many financial companies made it into the Top 20 donors to each Senator on the Banking Committee. We counted banks, investment/hedge funds, and industry advocacy groups in our totals. Since several Senators also serve on other influential committees, many of their top donors were from industries unrelated to banking -- defense contractors, for example. Senator Dean Heller of Nevada naturally has many casinos and affiliated companies as his largest donors. Only four of his top 20 donors are from the financial sector.

Who Are On The Banks' Dole?

The title of "BFF of TBTF Banks" this year surprisingly went to a Democrat. Senator Mark Warner (D- VA) raked in $704,866 in campaign contributions from the financial sector in his Top 20. In fact, half of his top 20 donors are in the financial sector: JP Morgan Chase, the Blackstone Group, Prudential Financial, Goldman Sachs, Columbia Capital, Genworth Financial, Morgan Stanley, Blackrock Inc, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo.

The "Enemy of Big Banks Award" goes to firebrand Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Having built a reputation for going after Too Big To Fail Banks and other Wall St firms, it comes as no surprise that there is not a single financial institution in her Top 20 donors.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) was only in 5th place when it came to big bank and equity fund money, even though 9 out of his top 20 donors are part of the financial sector. Ranking Democrat Sherrod Brown only had one financial company in his top 20 donors: Prudential Financial.



Note that each Senator could have any number of financial institutions donating toward their election. We only polled the 20 largest donors for our survey.

Same Old Song

Will the public remember how easily the big banks have gotten off for their crimes come November, and hold accountable the politicians responsible for banking deregulation?

If history is any indicator, special interests will be singing the same old song in the halls of Congress.

Big Money Donors Controlling the Senate
The Bosses of the Senate (1889)


The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and should not be used or construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product.

About the Author

Everett Millman

Steven Cochran

Precious Metals Market Analyst
BS University of South Florida (2002)

A published writer, Steven's coverage of precious metals goes beyond the daily news to explain how ancillary factors affect the market.

Steven specializes in market analysis with an emphasis on stocks, corporate bonds, and government debt. He writes a monthly review of the precious metals markets for

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