It’s GOP’s turn at political bucks


February 9, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Wall Street bankers are changing political horses. Angry at President Obama for his proposed bank tax and for the regulations he  wants to impose on the big banks to make another financial meltdown less likely, banks such as JPMorgan Chase are giving money to Republicans that went to Democrats in the last election cycle.
This seems perfectly natural and morally OK to Republicans.
“I just don’t know how long you can expect people to contribute money to a political party whose main plank of their platform is to punish you,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who goes to Wall Street twice a month these days to solicit cash for his party.
Perhaps a lot of us think Sen. Cornyn and his new high-dollar friends are right in step with how our democracy is supposed to work: Congressional favors should go to the highest bidder, just as they always have.
With that quid pro quo philosophy in mind, it is not surprising that Wall Street thinks it’s been had. President Obama, after all, received $89 million from banker types in 2008. Those super-generous donations helped make it possible for him to turn down federal financing in his presidential campaign. So how come he isn’t grateful? What’s all this hurtful rhetoric about “obscene bonuses” and “dangerous proprietary trading?”
What’s going on in the White House is Barack Obama being president rather than candidate.
He is going after the top rung in the financial world because the world’s biggest bankers and financial giants were the primary cause of the most damaging recession since the Great Depression. The president believes it is his sworn duty to protect the nation — and the world — from a repeat performance.
He is harshly criticizing outlandish salaries and even more enormous bonuses because he and anonymous Wall Street insiders believe the lure of all those millions of dollars drove financial traders and others with their fingers on the levers of financial power to take outsized risks. Losing those gambles caused the credit collapse which triggered the recession.
To prevent another similar catastrophe, the president wants Congress to regulate the nation’s largest banks to outlaw risky speculations with millions and billions of dollars and to open the financial industry to public view in the belief that a transparent industry will be a more cautious industry.
Big bankers don’t like these ideas. They don’t want more regulation. They don’t want anyone to know how they run their businesses. And they most certainly don’t think their salaries and bonuses are anyone else’s business.

SO, AND THIS is where this piece is going, they will say bye-bye to President Obama and the Democrats and hello to Sen. Cornyn and his cohorts, confident that they will get their money’s worth this time.
How much money? How high is up? The Supreme Court just removed all the limits on political donations and ruled that it is now legal for corporations to give as much as they wish to political parties and political candidates.
Goldman Sachs gave its CEO an $11 million stock bonus last month for his 2009 performance — and won praise for showing restraint. There is nothing to stop that firm or any of the other financial giants from donating that much or more to as many members of the House and Senate as necessary to make sure Congress listens when the industry speaks.
It cost $1.5 million to run a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl broadcast. Just think how much U.S. corporations will be able to spend to butter up the politicians who can help them avoid more regulation and make more money — or invest to elect new senators and representatives to replace those who are stubborn.
If there is a bright spot in this picture it is that so many corporations will spend so much money in efforts to buy the U.S. Congress that the people will cry, “enough!” and demand an end to money in politics.
U.S. elections should be financed with public dollars and campaigning should be limited to six months before each election. It may take a while to get there, but a super highway to that destination was just routed and paved by the United States Supreme Court.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.

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