British Petroleum, Transocean, Halliburton and Cameron International executives (and their communications advisors) were all over Capitol Hill this week to play the "blame game" for the soon-to-be-biggest-man-made ecological disaster to rock the U.S.
Called "Big Bank Takeover: How Too-Big-To-Fail's Army of Lobbyists has Captured Washington," the report has the country’s six top banks and their trade group spending an impressive $600M for lobbying and political contributions since the collapse of Bear Stearns in 2008.
Moreover, the Big Six (Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley ) has hired the lobbying services of 70 former Members of Congress and 940 ex- federal staffers.
That group includes 54 staffers to the House Financial Services Committee and Senate Banking Committee, 33 Congressional chiefs of staff and 28 legislative directors. Citigroup is the No. 1 employment agency. It employs 55 “revolving door lobbyists.” Goldman is next with 45. And of course, taxpayers picked up the bill for the lobbying spree via the $160B federal bailout and trillions in cheap loans from the Fed.
Banker lobbying outlays are money well-spent. Take a look at what happened to Senators Ted Kaufman's and Sherrod Brown’s effort to cap the size and reduce the high risk profile of banks. It's dead as a doornail. There is nothing wrong with the banking industry’s seizure of Capitol Hill. They have every right to address Capitol Hill. JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon refers to lobbying as one of his bank’s most important line of business. Chase executives are encouraged to make the rounds of D.C. and in state capitals.
The banks are simply playing by rules. It’s those rules that could use some tweaking. Colorado Senator Michael Bennet got the ball rolling in April, introducing the “Close the Revolving Door Act of2010.” The bill puts a lifetime ban on Congressmen from lobbying and increases the “cooling off” period for staffers from lobbying their former bosses from one to six years. Some say Bennet’s provision would rob the nation of service from the best and brightest. Others say it would limit federal duty. Those fears are misplaced. Just take a look at the current crowd that represents America. Not exactly the cream of the crop.
The feeling that Congress is in the bag of the Big Banks/Wall Street is a major contributor to the nation’s rising political cynicism and sourpuss mood. Congress can effect change as long as it is willing to kill the golden goose and padlock the revolving door.