If Republicans are “making love to Wall Street,” as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., put it, one wonders if there’s a printable description for his torrid affair with the financial sector.
Reid’s slur was the standard Democratic attack — that Republicans, by opposing regulations, are prostituting for the big banks. It’s a dishonest attack, belied by basic facts, but President Barack Obama and other Democrats get away with it. Look between the sheets, however, and you’ll see it’s Reid in bed with Wall Street.
His re-election coffers are filled with Wall Street lucre, and his fundraisers and former staffers are lobbyists for the biggest banks. And Reid’s legislative history makes it clear that the customer gets what the customer pays for.
Reid has raised more money from Wall Street than any Republican House or Senate candidate, according the Center for Responsive Politics. In fact, among senators seeking re-election, Reid has raised more than the top three Republicans combined. As far as the parties go, it’s not even close: Wall Street has given 60 percent of its cash this year to Democrats, and seven of the top 10 recipients of Wall Street political action committee money are Democrats.
But the real players in this affair are those who walk K Street trading cash for special favors.
Lobbyist Jimmy Ryan, beyond any doubt, is in bed with Reid. Ryan was Reid’s general counsel until mid-2003, at which point he cashed out to Citigroup as a lobbyist. Last year, Ryan moved to K Street’s Elmendorf Strategies, representing Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, the New York Stock Exchange, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, Hartford Financial Services, the Managed Funds Association, Financial Services Forum, the Consumer Bankers Association, the Futures Industry Association, the Active Financing Working Group and Primerica Financial Services.
According to the Federal Election Commission’s website, Ryan has given $60,800 this cycle — which is twice the legal maximum — to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, for which re-electing Reid is a top priority. Ryan also donated to Reid’s campaign.
Following Ryan as Reid’s chief counsel was Kevin Kayes. He’s now a lobbyist at Quinn Gillespie, where his clients include hedge funds BlackRock and Blackstone, along with Visa and Zurich Financial Services. Kayes has given the maximum to Reid, plus $10,500 to the DSCC.
Then there’s Tony Podesta. The K Street heavyweight, who represents Bank of America and Wells Fargo — two leaders in the mortgage industry — along with Credit Suisse and Sallie Mae. Podesta is an official bundler for Reid — i.e., volunteer fundraiser — having raked in $59,700 for the senator in 2009. Tony and his lobbyist wife, Heather, have contributed $7,200 to Reid since his last election.
Other big Reid bundlers include the PAC for Fidelity Investments ($36,500). The lobbying firm DLA Piper — representing Charles Schwab, Discover Financial, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis and the Royal Bank of Scotland — also passed the hat for Reid, procuring $23,950 for him in 2009.
And lest you think Reid is some sort of tease, consider his record of delivering the goods to those who deliver the cash. Currently, the drug lobby is running ads in Nevada for Reid, who passed their preferred subsidy-laden health care bill through the Senate.
Then there’s the case, exposed by the Los Angeles Times in 2006, of wealthy lobbyist and developer Harvey Whittemore, a Reid donor and friend who has employed Reid’s children and benefitted repeatedly from Reid’s legislation.
There’s a love child here too: reform. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein let the cat out of the bag this week in a call with private wealth managers, saying, “We will be among the biggest beneficiaries of reform.”
So Reid can follow the president’s churlish lead and attack the Republicans as Wall Street floozies, but that doesn’t change the fact that Reid is carrying Goldman’s baby.
Timothy P. Carney is The Washington Examiner’s lobbying editor.