Updated September 15th - This Article is compiled from previous articles and new content. Bundler amounts have been updated, but individual contributions have not been updated since June. As a result, it is safe to assume that individual contributions have likely been doubled since the start of the General Election cycle.
As Senator Obama and his Democratic colleagues attempt to tie this weeks financial meltdown to John McCain, perhaps we need to re-examine the candidate who has benefited the most from the very Wall Street Executives who have brought us this financial crisis. Obama’s campaign has undergone little scrutiny on his long-standing ties to the financial and banking community. In Obama’s speeches across the country he has repeatedly criticized the Bush administration for allowing “evil” subprime mortgage lenders and investment banks to lead this county into our current mortgage meltdown. Obama’s rhetoric on the mortgage crisis has been pointed and blunt, as stated on his own campaign website, “Obama will crack down on fraudulent brokers and lenders…Obama has been closely monitoring the subprime mortgage situation for years, and introduced comprehensive legislation over a year ago to fight mortgage fraud and protect consumers against abusive lending practices”.
Throughout the campaign season Obama has attacked Wall Street’s financial sector and run a campaign based largely upon his “good judgment”. The problem with Obama’s rhetoric rests in the fact that tucked away in his database of 2.5 million donors is the approximately 180,000 power brokers that have funded nearly 60% of his campaign. Included in this list are the more than 594 campaign bundlers including 15 lobbyist bundlers who have accounted for over $140 million in contributions. Included in this list are just 36 bundlers accounting for over $18 million dollars, with two bundlers raising over $1 million, and one over $2 million. These amounts are impressive considering that just 552 individuals have accounted for nearly 1/3 of his total campaign contributions. Of course determining the occupation can be tricky considering the Obama campaign lists nearly 100 bundlers as having unknown occupations, nearly 100 who are listed as "self-employed", and dozens of "homemakers" and "retired" individuals.
Among Obama's campaign contributors are many Lehman Brothers Executives, such as CEO Richard Fuld ($2,300), President Joseph Gregory ($4,600) and dozens of other top Lehman Executives. On June 19th, Lehman shareholders filed suit against Fuld and Gregory for the company’s exposure in the subprime market. In addition to dozens of Lehman executives are Obama's bundlers from Lehman Borthers who have raised top dollar for the campaign. Direct contributions from Lehman Brothers have exceeded $395,000 for Senator Obama.
John Rhea - (over $500,000) Co-Head of Lehman Bros. Global Investment Banking
Mark Gilbert - (over $500,000) Lehman Brothers Senior Executive
Christine Forester - (over $500,000) Lehman Brothers Senior Executive
Theodore Janulis – Bundler (over $100,000) & Lehman Brothers Head of Global Mortgages
Nadja Fidelia – Bundler (over $50,000) & Managing Director of Lehman Brothers
In San Antonia this past February Obama stated in a campaign speech, “To give you a sense of what that kind of lobbying gets you… the CEO of the largest subprime lender was promised a hundred-million-dollar severance package at a time when more than 2 million Americans were facing foreclosure, including nearly 14,000 right here in San Antonio..." Obama was most likely referring to an Angelo R. Mozillo, one of three CEO’s that were scheduled to appear to testify in front of a senate committee concerning their compensation and firms roles in the ongoing mortgage crisis. Stanley O’Neal, who received more than $161 million when he was ousted as the Chairman of Merrill Lynch, was one of the three CEO’s coming under scrutiny. In 2003, O’Neil donated to Senator Obama’s Senatorial campaign, followed up by a maximum $4,600 campaign contribution by he and his wife, Nancy Garvey, to the Obama Campaign. Ironically, the O’Neals tried to originally contribute $6,900 to the campaign only to have $2,300 returned. For those attuned to the financial sector, Stanley O'Neil will forever be remembered as the man at the helm while Merrill Lynch exposed themselves to tens of billions in subprime exposure.
The real problem for Obama extends well beyond his campaign bundlers that include several prominent lobby–representing attorney’s and executives such as Frank Clark, the CEO of Commonwealth Edison. Executives across the financial and investment industry have accounted for millions in campaign contributions.
Contributing to Obama’s cause is the more controversial Brad Morrice, the former CEO and President of the imploded subprime lender, New Century Financial. Morrice and his wife contributed the maximum $4,600 to Obama’s campaign last August.
Among other subprime contributors to Obama’s campaign are Steve Boland, a managing director at Countrywide, who donated the maximum last June. Andrew Beer the president of Wachovia’s troubled subprime lender Evergreen Investment Partners also maxed out his contribution to the Obama campaign; and Joseph Azrack, the president of Citigroup Property Investments along with dozens of Citi Executives have heavily contributed.
In 2007 Eric Schwartz, the co-head of Goldman-Sachs Global Asset Management abruptly stepped down from is position, fueling rumors that his resignation was tied to a crumbling Global Alpha Hedge Fund. The Fund’s mounting losses led to a -39% performance last year as the fund assets shrunk by 60%. Shwartz, an Obama bundler and contributor, has helped to raise over $100,000 for the Senator’s Campaign.
In 2007 Robert Wolf, the CEO of UBS Americas, helped the Obama campaign raise more than $500,000. That amount was equaled by Louis Susman, the Chairman of a Citibank Subsidiary.
Additional High Profile Financial Executives Include:
John W. Roberts - (over $500,000) Ariel Capital Management
Richard Leweke – Vice Chairman of Washington Mutual Card Services
Seth Waugh – CEO of Deutsche Bank
Charles Lewis – Vice Chairman of Merrill Lynch
Francisco Borges – Over $50,000 Chairman of Landmark Partners a private equity real estate firm.
Michael Froman – Over $200,000 Managing Director of Citigroup
David Heller – Over $200,000 Managing Director of Goldman Sachs
Bruce Heyman - Over $200,000 - Managing Director Goldman Sachs
J. Michael Schell – Over $200,000 Managing Director at Citigroup
Jim Torrey – Over $500,000 Founder of the Torrey Funds – Hedge Funds
Todd Williams – Over $50,000 Managing Director Goldman Sachs & The Real Estate Council
Louis Susman - Over $200,000 Citi Investment Banking
The listing of contributions flowing in from Financial Institutions through Senator Obama’s career is short of amazing. There are currently dozens upon dozens of Senior Vice Presidents, Managing Directors, and other top level executives from firms such as Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and other high profile Wall Street banks and funds mired in the mortgage meltdown.
Too many to list you can view all at White House For Sale
The ties between Obama and the industry are too expansive and raise the question, “Is Obama just another politician, saying what is politically expedient while sending an opposite message to his donors?”
The Center For Responsive Politics continues to call upon both campaigns to provide updated and full disclosure of the campaign bundlers; yet the Obama campaign in practicing its “change” politics, has failed to provide full disclosure of its donors.
What we do know is that the FEC requires full disclosure (Names, Employers, etc…) of individual contributions of more than $250. From aggregating information contained within FEC disclosures you can begin to form a picture of where the large contributions are coming from. According to The Center For Responsive Politics, of the 20 largest sources of campaign contributions to the Obama Campaign, 11 were Investment Banks or International Law firms directly tied to the financial industry.
During the primary cycle Obama attacked lobbyists and PAC’s going so far as to attempt to force the entire Democratic Party to refuse money from lobbyists and PAC’s in the general election. Obama has criticized PAC and Lobbyist money as having undue influence within Washington. But are any contributions from these organizations or individuals any less influential than the more the $350,000 (not including millions in bundled contributions) he has received (thru May 1st) from Sidley Austin LLP employees. Those who are familiar with Sidley Austin LLP understand that the firm is a large, international law firm with a large presence within the financial services and insurance industry. For instance, the firm was just recognized by Alpha Magazine as the top firm for Hedge Funds for the second year along with consistently ranking as a top corporate law firm. Obama has also accepted more than $340,000 from Skadden, Arp, et al... employees, a firm that was recently recognized as the “Best Corporate Law Firm In The United States” for the eighth consecutive year by Corporate Board Member. Skadden is another large Law firm specializing in practices related to investment banking and representing clients such as Merrill Lynch. In addition to the aforementioned law firms, Jones Day, Latham & Watkins, & Wilmerhale LLP are all large law firms and top 20 contributors to the Obama campaign. All three of these law firms also specialize in corporate law and ranking among the top ten “corporate law firms” by the Corporate Board Member.
Understand that I am not demonizing any of the companies or firms in this article, after all they are businesses and their employees have the right to contribute to campaigns. The issue is not with the companies whose executives have flocked to the open arms of the Obama campaign; rather the issue is the open arms of the Obama campaign. He has publicly demonized the investment banking and mortgage industry in front of crowds across the nation, yet has his campaign advisors accepting huge amounts of cash from the executives who run these companies and the attorney’s who represent them. The Obama campaign has demonized lobbyists, many of whom represent non-profit organizations and even State governments, all the while accepting millions in contributions from law firms who specialize in corporate representation. It’s lunacy.
Meanwhile back on Wall street the executives of Goldman Sachs have contributed more than $691,000 to the Obama campaign, not including any ancillary contributions collected by bundlers who are employed by Goldman Sachs. The Obama campaign will counter these numbers by citing that these are large companies that these are large companies and due to their 2.5 million donors you would expect large amounts of contributions from the employees of these companies. Yet, this argument is nothing more than manipulative political spin. As I stated earlier, the campaigns are only required to collect and report employment information for donors contributing more than $250 during the primary or general election cycles. These numbers disclosed by the campaign are how we are able to determine that less than 10% of his donors account for 60% of his campaign’s contributions. Thus, the aggregate totals for these companies represent the highly paid and executive level contributions made to the Obama campaign, not donations flowing from employee who contributed $10 or $20 dollars. Goldman Sachs employees are the largest aggregated contributors to the Obama campaign.
UBS and Citigroup, companies writing off billions of dollars in “subprime” related losses in the over the summer, are also among top ten contributors to the Obama campaign. Executives at these companies, such as Obama bundler and UBS Americas CEO Robert Wolf, have contributed over $850,000 to the Obama campaign.
Lehman Brothers executives have also flocked to the Obama camp, directly contributing over $395,000 to the Senator. Of course, the amount of direct contributions by these executives is overshadowed by the bundled contributions they have collected on his behalf. We know based upon disclosure from the Obama campaign that just 6 Lehman executives alone are responsible for more than $2,200,000 in bundled contributions. Unfortunately, the extent of bundled contributions are unknown since the Obama campaign has refused full disclosure (all we know is that certain bundlers raise over $500,000, the amount could have been far more).
These contributions were matched by Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase executives who rounded out the Obama campaigns top twenty with over $750,000 in combined contributions. In all the Obama campaign has accepted more than $25 million in contributions from the “disclosed” employees of financial services, insurance, and real estate firms, the largest sector to contribute to the Obama campaign. Additionally, Obama’s second largest source of campaign funds has come from the nearly $24 million he has accepted from attorneys, many of which work at large corporate law firms like those listed above. Oh...by the way, make sure you look for their names on the bundler lists, you will be amazed. These numbers are more than twice the amount contributed by these sectors to the McCain campaign; increasing even more when you factor in the large contributions made by spouses and direct family members of these executives.
Again, I’m not demonizing any of these contributors or companies that have made these contributions; Senator Obama has done more than enough of “demonizing” on the campaign trail. The executives at these companies have earned their positions and have the right to pursue whatever political path they choose. The issues rests within the candidate who has run on a platform that has criticized the influence of corporate money in Washington politics, demonized financial services firms and their executives, demanded a halt to the undue influence of lobbyist and PAC money in Washington (only a position he recently embraced), and claimed that he will end the political greed that exists in Washington. Yet while proclaiming that he is the candidate with “good judgment” and that his campaign is a “movement”, Obama has had his hands deep in the pockets of the financial institutions and their legal representation that have contributed to the “mortgage meltdown” we are entrenched in today. I highly doubt that any of these executives who overwhelmingly favor Obama, are attempting to donate to a candidate that would damage their positions.
Obama can attempt to proclaim that he is not swayed by these contributions, yet if that were true then he would also not be swayed by lobbyist and PAC contributions.
Every story that surfaces concerning Senator Obama reeks with the stench of the long-corrupt Chicago political machine. Obama is part of this machine; his rise to power was due to this machine, and like the Chicago power brokers he is nothing more than a say anything, do anything candidate who once elected will break all campaign promises, act only to increase his own political power and then expect the long-term memory loss that the public has to kick-in by election day.
What is happening on Wall Street is not the fault of a single President nor a single congress. They all share responsibility for 2 decades of bipartisan ineptitude in which both parties overlooked sound fiscal policy and failed to recognize the true purpose of regulation. For two decades, both parties have turned away from genuine regulation based upon competition and consumer protection, instead passing regulations that have diminished competition and failed to protect the consumer. Many of the regulations passed in the past twenty years were pushed by the larger investment companies, insurance companies and banks looking to make it harder for competition to survive. As a result, we have seen the death of competition in the financial markets and the growth of the mega-financials. Today, our country is suffering because both parties supported failed regulatory policy which squeezed out competition while allowing behemoth companies to run amuck. The problems with our financial sector existed long before George Bush took office and the Federal Reserve and Congress should have acted in February of 2007 when the credit crunch first appeared. What we need is Teddy Roosevelt, what we will get is unknown.
September 16th, 2008
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