WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc is a big player in donating to political campaigns, which could be a plus if the struggling investment bank needs federal help, said a watchdog group on Thursday.
Lehman shares fell 42 percent on investor fears about the company’s future, with its chief executive scrambling to sell assets to cover devastating real estate market losses.
Both presidential candidates have gotten a lot of money from Lehman employees — Democratic candidate Barack Obama to the tune of at least $370,000, and Republican John McCain, $117,000 — according to the nonpartisan, nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.
Speculation was making the rounds on Capitol Hill on Thursday about whether the government would come to Lehman’s rescue, fueled by Sunday’s federal takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the government-engineered rescue of Bear Stearns earlier this year.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, told reporters on Thursday, “I’m hoping that Lehman Brothers will turn around. People that I talk to say they think that it will.”
In the 2008 election cycle, Lehman political action committees, employees and their immediate family members have given $1.9 million to all federal candidates, said the center, which posts its campaign finance data at www.opensecrets.org.
Lehman donors ranked fourth on Wall Street in total 2008 campaign giving, trailing Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Morgan Stanley and UBS AG, the center said.
“If Lehman Brothers needs a helping hand from the federal government, they know who to call,” Sheila Krumholz, the center’s executive director, told Reuters.
“Like nearly every bank on Wall Street, Lehman and its employees have been major financial supporters of lawmakers, who may now feel compelled to return the favor,” she said.
Lehman donors have sent 64 percent of their 2008 donations to Democrats and 36 percent to Republicans, the center said.
The company is also on track to spend approximately $800,000 on lobbying this year, with most its political influence work focused on tax and housing issues, the center said.
Lehman shares closed down $3.03 to $4.22 on the New York Stock Exchange, climbing from lower levels near the end of trading on a report about a possible buyout bid from Bank of America Corp.
Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe