Wall Street to Democrats: We wish we knew how to quit you!

Wall Street may be bitching about the Democrats, but it's still giving them money. Investment banks, hedge funds, insurers, and real estate companies have donated $35.4 million to Democrats and $23.8 million to Republicans for the 2010 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That amounts to 60 percent of donations going to Democrats, up from 44 percent in 2006, and an equal and opposite loss for the GOP.

"Wall Street is giving more money to Democrats than Republicans," David Levinthal, a spokesman for the Washington-based group, tells DailyFinance. "Typically, that's been the reverse."
Not that you'd know it from reading the papers. The New York Times reported that Wall Street executives, feeling burned by President Obama's hammering them on bonuses and other sensitive (but politically advantageous) topics, have been reluctant to spend $30,400 -- the maximum political donation -- to attend a fundraiser on Tuesday where the president was speaking. "There's a fear of getting caught in the public rage over the perception that Wall Street titans profiting from their government bailout may use their winnings to give back to Washington in return," The Times noted.

Well, the titans seem to be over their fear. Obama spoke to an attentive audience of financial executives, according to reports, and gently lectured the masters of the universe to clean up the financial-services industry. "This is important for our country. And in the long run, it will be good for the financial industry to have a level playing field in which everybody knows the rules and everybody knows that the rules will be enforced," Obama said. "The finance industry is essential to a healthy economy and to the well-being of our economy. That is why we stepped in to prevent a collapse that would have had far-reaching and devastating consequences for the American people."

Congress and Wall Street are not two peas in a pod -- but they're awfully close. Members of the Congressional committees that oversee the financial-services industry are great beneficiaries of industry generosity. Commercial banks and finance and credit companies have donated more than $5.3 million to the campaigns of House Financial Services Committee members during the last election and so far this year, according to political activist group Common Cause.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chair of the House Financial Services Committee, has attracted more than $1 million in donations from such sources as FMR Corp., parent of Fidelity Investments; Liberty Mutual Insurance; and the mutual-fund trade group the Managed Fund Association. Not surprisingly, insurance and securities firms are his biggest contributors of the 2010 election cycle.

Frank's counterpart in the Senate, Chris Dodd (D.-Conn.), raised more than $7 million from financial sources between 2005 and 2010. Dodd's donors include Citigroup Inc. (C); hedge fund SAC Capital; and defunct Wall Street firm Bear Stearns. Dodd's relationship to Wall Street is already an issue in what observers say will be a tough re-election campaign.

"For a long time, government failed to exercise their oversight responsibility due in part to their generosity," says Mary Boyle of Common Cause. Indeed, Obama raised more than $3 million from the New York fundraiser. If Wall Street really is at odds with the Democrats, they sure have a funny way of showing it.

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