Are Bailed-Out Banks Really Lobbying More?
The Associated Press reported late Tuesday that recipients of Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout money are spending freely on lobbying Congress, while holding onto their government aid — but that’s not the whole story.
The AP noted that seven of the top 10 bailout beneficiaries spent more money on lobbying in the first quarter of 2009 than in the latter part of 2008, just after TARP began. But let’s take General Motors and AIG (which claims it’s merely “correct[ing] misinformation,” not lobbying) out of the picture for a moment and look at only the top 21 lending banks that got bailout money.
These are the same 21 banks that lent less money to ordinary Americans in February than they did in January, undermining TARP’s ostensible purpose. And interestingly enough, they’re also lobbying a bit less this year than they were last year.
These top 21 bailed-out banks spent $8.84 million on K Street representation during the first quarter of 2009, down from $8.95 million during the last quarter of 2008, according to a Washington Independent analysis of lobbying reports filed this week. While JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Capital One all increased their lobbying spending, less influence cash was spent by Citigroup, Bank of America, and American Express.
The overall decrease is slight enough — and total lobbying bills are still high enough — that the nation’s top banks can hardly be described as tightening their belts. But given that all 21 banks on the list had the explosive issue of executive compensation to lobby on during the first quarter of this year, it’s surprising to see their expenditures not rocketing upwards.