Wall Street has been making huge investments — not in businesses or stocks, but in the American political process.
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Wall Street has been making huge investments — not in businesses or stocks, but in the American political process. At nearly $3 billion, the financial sector spent record sums on campaign contributions and lobbying during the 2019-2020 election cycle.
Wall Street has one goal: to maximize profits. By using wealth as leverage, Wall Street wields immense power over the electoral and legislative processes, to the detriment of ordinary people and American democracy. One part of the answer to this problem is pending legislation to reinvigorate the laws that underpin our self-governance.
The financial sector’s political spending skyrocketed by 50% between the 2015-2016 and 2019-2020 election cycles, culminating in $2.9 billion spent in the past year, according to a recently released report from Americans for Financial Reform. The highest spender on Wall Street, Blackstone CEO Steven Schwarzman, spent more than $33 million alone on campaign contributions during the last election cycle.
With individual donations and PAC contributions, corporations and Wall Street donate to win influence. It is also the third-highest industry spender on lobbying activities, with nearly $1 billion on lobbying in 2019-2020.
Wall Street’s political spending underscores the urgency to pass the “For the People Act,” legislation that would diminish Wall Street’s grip by matching donations up to $200 at a rate of 6:1 with public funds and enabling party committees to open small-dollar donation accounts with fewer restrictions. It would also increase restrictions on large PACs, like the ones used by financial sector tycoons. By empowering small-dollar donors and reining in billionaires, we can reduce Wall Street’s political influence.
For Wall Street, spending massive sums on lobbying and campaign contributions is a highly calculated decision. Wall Street wants to derail financial regulation and keep low tax rates. It needs friendly legislators to do it, and it has something they want: money.
During the past two decades, around 90% of House elections were won by the candidate in the race who spent the most money,