Wall Street hires army of Washington insiders

WASHINGTON Tue May 11, 2010 5:17pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Wall Street banks and allied interest groups have spent $600 million and hired 243 political insiders to represent their interests before Congress and U.S. policymakers since early 2008, a study said on Tuesday.

The labor-backed study, which tracks the lobbying and campaign spending of major banks from the 2008 government-brokered buyout of Bear Stearns to the Senate's current financial reform debate, said Wall Street's lobbyists include former top aides to Senate Democrats Harry Reid, Christopher Dodd, Charles Schumer and Tim Johnson.

During the 2008 presidential race, securities and investment firms gave Democrat Barack Obama's campaign nearly $14.9 million and Republican John McCain about $8.7 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Researchers found 28 former legislative directors and 33 former chiefs of staff among Wall Street's army of lobbyists, as well as 54 former staffers to the House Financial Services Committee, the Senate Banking Committee or current members of those panels.

Former aides to Republican Senator Richard Shelby and former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt have also been working to represent Wall Street's interests, the study said.

The list of lobbyists also includes former officials from the White House, Treasury Department and government agencies.

"The big banks have employed an unrivaled network of in-house lobbying teams, hired guns, industry associations, front groups and behind-the-scenes influence peddlers," said the authors of the 11-page study, titled: "Big Bank Takeover -- How Too-Big-To-Fail's Army of Lobbyists Has Captured Wall Street."

The six biggest Wall Street institutions -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo -- have accounted for a disproportionate share of the lobbying and campaign activity.

Interest groups such as the Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association, the American Bankers Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have also been at the forefront.

The study was released by three left-leaning groups -- the Campaign for America's Future, the Public Accountability Initiative and the Service Employees International Union, one of the largest U.S. labor groups.

The SEIU has spent $5.4 million lobbying Congress since the start of 2008, according to disclosure records filed with the Senate.

The union has also donated $3.5 million to federal election campaigns since the start of the 2008 election cycle, the Center for Responsive Politics said. More than 95 percent of those donations went to Democratic candidates.

(Reporting by David Morgan, Editing by Stacey Joyce)

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