This post is not about conspiracy theory nor is it a political statement. Just an ironic commentary on the influence peddling that goes on between politicians and big companies, which unfortunately hurts the economy, the taxpayer and small business.
Recently my colleagues, Gary Aguirre, William Black, Michael Winston and I formed a probono group and policy initiative with a goal to restore the rule of law to Wall Street and accelerate our work to “greatly reduce the risk and cost of future financial crisis.” The group, Bank Whistleblowers United, issued a series of four documents we call our 60 Day Plan. We have drafted these in such a way that all of the candidates should be able to agree to implement at least some of our proposals.
I was forcefully reminded of the necessity of these proposals while reading the news recently and noting the actions of some of our presidential candidates. Our third document proposes a pledge that our political nominees sign to not to take material contributions from the banks (and their officers) that are responsible for the financial crisis, which essentially includes all of the largest banks in the US that have paid large settlements related to wrongdoing. It is a critical step, considering the many contributions going into political candidate’s pockets from the very same banks we have been railing against.
An example: the New York Times recently endorsed Hillary Clinton. No comment. However Citigroup, which has played no small part in her campaign and in funding both Clintons, ran a banner ad in the paper that appeared to salute the endorsement.
The ad slogan, “cash back once just isn’t enough.” It’s no secret that Citigroup is among the top five largest lifetime donors to Hillary’s campaigns. And not far behind Citi are three other banks, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley with monies from their employees and or family members and the PACS from these firms.
Citigroup has been most generous to both Clintons, from personal mortgages, hefty speaking fees to Bill Clinton and funding of $5.5 million to the Clinton Global Initiative, a charitable organization. Incidentally, in April of 2015, Charity Navigator, which rates nonprofit organizations, put the Clinton Global Initiative on its watch list, which warns potential donors about investing in problematic charities.
According to the N.Y. Post article, nonprofit experts are asking about the CGI foundation’s tax filings, ‘in the wake of recent reports that the Clintons traded influence for donors.” Apparently the CGI foundation has also failed to disclose millions of dollars it has received from foreign donations from 2010 to 2012.
Trading influence for money? Well, let’s consider that when Bill Clinton was President, he repealed the Glass–Steagall Act, only one of the most important pieces of investor protection legislation of the 20th Century. Citigroup was one of its most vehement lobbyists. And, what a coincidence, it looks as if Hillary is not for restoring Glass–Steagall.
Looks as if campaign financing monies buy a lot. Now this is not a political slam against one party or the other, yet as Senator Elizabeth Warren, herself a Democrat, has pointed out, “Many big banks are well represented in Washington but the connection between Citigroup and Democratic administrations really sticks out. Three of the last four Democratic Treasury secretaries have Citigroup ties … Former Directors of the National Economic Council and the Office of Management and Budget at the White House and our current U.S. Trade Representative also have Citigroup ties.” Senator Warren pointed this out during the 2014 Senate confirmation hearing to install Stanley Fischer, a former executive of Citigroup, as Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve!
I’m also curious about the $25 million in speaking fees the Clintons have received from other Wall Street firms. Hillary’s comments to Goldman Sachs, and Deutsche Bank, brought her between $225,000 to $475.000, pretty nice speaking fees, if such is what they are.
Were these fees for her comments or for her encouragement and promises? She’s been asked to release the transcripts and to date refuses to do so. Her morale booster to Goldman Sachs defended banks and slammed those criticizing Wall Street. She said, “Beating up the financial industry isn’t going to improve the economy.” What the bankers heard her say was just what they would hope for from a presidential candidate.
Overall, 100 plus paid speeches to her credit have netted her $21.7 million in the 18 months before launching this last presidential bid. What she has said to companies, individuals and Wall Street banks in particular is pretty much a mystery. Many of the associations she has spoken to are lobbying Congress over a variety of interests.
From our perspective, taking such large amounts of money from the banks which were the core of our 2008 debacle is unethical in the extreme. It shows favoritism and a promise to pay that could again lead us on the slippery slope that led to the TBTF bailouts.
Just speaking fees or promises? The public deserves an answer. Laughing it off, as Hillary has done, is no laughing matter.
[tweetthis url=”http://bit.ly/20Y2vBr”]Taking such large amounts of money from the #TBTF banks is unethical. ~@RichardMBowen #HillaryClinton #Hillary2016[/tweetthis]