Are Democrats the party of Wall Street?

The financial sector has been investing more and more in the Democratic Party recently.

Published March 24, 2009 1:45PM (EDT)

It can seem, on days like today, that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has ideas only Wall Street could love. It would be much too simplistic to argue that the Treasury Department, or the Obama administration, is simply bought-and-paid-for. But it is worth remembering that these days, it’s fundamentally inaccurate to think that Democrats are any less the party of Wall Street than Republicans.

Lately, as this chart from the Center for Responsive Politics/ shows, Democrats have caught and, rather spectacularly, passed the GOP in donations from securities and investment firms and their employees.

As the next chart shows, out of all the various industries, it's the finance sector that gives the most to Democrats. (This graph, also from, includes insurance and real estate on top of securities and investments. With insurance and real estate subtracted, securities and investments come in second among Democratic donor sectors, after lawyers.)

There's a pretty good explanation for why Democrats have suddenly attracted so much interest from the financial industry -- they're the party in power. It was pretty clear before both the 2006 and 2008 elections that the party was poised to score some major victories. The explosion in giving that went along with this last campaign is tied to the economic crisis, including the bailouts and the other potential solutions floated by both Democrats and Republicans. The companies involved have a lot at stake, and wanted to make sure their voices would be heard during the process; the question of how much bang they're getting for their buck remains open.

By Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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