Wall Street gave more money to 2020 campaigns than any election season in U.S. history

"Year in and year out, this torrent of money gives Wall Street an outsized role in how we are governed"

By Julia Conley
April 18, 2021 9:00AM (UTC)
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The facade of the New York Stock Exchange is seen in the New York financial district on Wall Street (Jeff Hutchens/Getty Images)

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As part of Wall Street's "relentless push to influence decision-making" in Washington, D.C., the powerful financial sector spent a record $2.9 billion on campaign donations and lobbying in the 2020 election cycle, a new report shows, with Democrats including President Joe Biden accepting millions of dollars.

According to Americans for Financial Reform (AFR), which published the study Thursday, the historic sum was spent by Wall Street executives, employees, and trade groups, and included campaign contributions as well as lobbying expenses. 

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The sector's goal was to ensure lawmakers pass "policy that makes the already wealthy richer, and the rest of us poorer," regardless of which party is in power. 

The spending detailed in AFR's report likely does not represent Wall Street's total contributions, the organization noted, because $1.05 billion in dark money, with unknown original sources, was spent on the 2020 federal elections.

"Thus, total Wall Street spending [accounts] for,  at a minimum—because it is impossible to track dark money from the industry—one in seven dollars that financed the 2020 federal elections, the most expensive ever," AFR reported. 

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The financial sector spent the most money ever on political elections last year since 2016, when Wall Street poured $2 billion into campaigns and lobbying efforts. AFR executive director Lisa Donner noted that Wall Street is likely to continue breaking records in the coming years. 

"The enormous sums that Wall Street has at its disposal, combined with a broken campaign finance system, means there is little practical limit to the amount of money the financial services industry can inject into American debate on politics and policy," Donner said in a statement.

The majority of the campaign contributions from Wall Street went to Democratic candidates, with Democrats taking 53% of the donations. More than $74 million was given to Biden's campaign.

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Newly elected Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia were among the senators who received a combined $300 million from Wall Street executives and employees. 

On Twitter, AFR said some of the biggest political spenders on Wall Street last year were Bloomberg LP, which poured $157.8 million into the elections; the National Association of Realtors, which spent more than $154 million; and Blackstone Group, which spent more than $49 million.

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"Year in and year out, this torrent of money gives Wall Street an outsized role in how we are governed, while driving and protecting policies that help this industry's super wealthy amass even greater fortunes at the expense of the rest of us," said Donner.


Julia Conley

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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