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Friday, January 22, 2010

How the court's campaign finance ruling hurts Wall Street favorite Chuck Schumer

[Originally posted at Beltway Confidential]

Politico provided my favorite reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling today that Congress shall, in fact, make no law abridging the freedom of speech, even when it's called "reform":

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) "This activist and far reaching decision is even worse than we had feared. This opens the floodgates and allows special interest money to overflow our elections and undermine our democracy. The bottom line is, the Supreme Court has just predetermined the winners of next November’s election. It won’t be the Republican or the Democrats and it won't be the American people; it will be Corporate America."

This is entertaining -- and enlightening -- in the context of some numbers from Check this screen capture of the most active industries in the 2010 elections:

So, of the five most politically active industries (not counting "retired"), Schumer is the top recipient of campaign cash from three of those. You might say he's awash in "special interest money," and sniff some hypocrisy or political posturing here.

But Schumer does have a legitimate gripe. Until now, if corporations wanted to influence politics and policy, their ability to speak directly to politicians was limited by law. That meant they needed to make their case through indirect means, such as contributing to politicians -- mostly to Schumer, it seems. Or it meant paying big bucks to hire lobbyists from among the staffs of powerful lawmakers, such as:

> Carmencita Whonder, Schumer's former banking aide, now representing Fannie Mae, Merrill Lynch, the Private Equity council, Western Union
> Izzy Klein, Schumer's former press secretary now representing Bank of America, General Dynamics, Oracle, Tyco, National Association of Broadcasters
> Ipyana Critton, Schumer's former director of appropriations, now representing Deutsche Bank and Abyssian Development Corporation
> Or any of the other 9 former Schumer staffers now serving as registered lobbyists.

Now, set free of from Congress's speech regulations, non-profits and corporations might not rely so much on these indirect means of political influence. That means less campaign cash coming into Schumer, fewer corporations courting Schumer's staff, and less sucking up to Schumer by lobbyists.

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