When former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) took a job with the investment bank Moelis & Co. earlier this month shortly after resigning his Congressional seat, he became the latest example of the tight-knit relationship between Wall Street and Washington. In aninterview, I called this out for what it is: another sign that the revolving door still spins freely in Washington. Cantor had little experience in financial services, and the value of people like him to Wall Street firms is influence peddling, plain and simple.
Wall Street’s outsized influence in our nation’s capital is something I’ve talked about for a long time — long before I even thought about running for office. But where I see a problem — an infestation, really — a lot of others in Washington, both Democrats and Republicans, seem to see government working just fine.
So when former Congressman Anthony Weiner — a Democrat from New York —dismissed my concerns, it was business as usual. Identifying himself as a liberal, Weiner called my criticism of the revolving door culture “overblown” and “petty.”
Let’s start with some facts.
The Cantor move to Wall Street is not some isolated incident. Just look at the influence of one mega-bank — Citigroup — on our government. Starting with former Citigroup CEO Robert Rubin, three of the last four Treasury secretaries under Democratic presidents held high-paying jobs at Citigroup either before or after serving at Treasury — and the fourth was offered, but declined, Citigroup’s CEO position. Directors of the National Economic Council and Office of Management and Budget, the current Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the U.S. trade representative, also pulled in millions from Citigroup.
That’s what the revolving door looks like at just one Too Big to Fail Bank. What about others? The influence of Goldman Sachs in Washington has been much documented,including here at Huffington Post. JPMorgan? Shortly before the Cantor episode, another former member of Congress — Democrat Melissa Bean — took the same senior job at JPMorgan Chase previously held by Democrat Bill Daley before his recent service as White House Chief of Staff. Yes — this is just a single position at JPMorgan Chase, evidently reserved for the latest politician ready to cash in on Wall Street.
I could go on — and I will. Soon after they crashed the economy and got tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts, the biggest Wall Street banks started lobbying Congress to head off any serious financial regulation. Public Citizen and the Center for Responsive Politics found that in 2009 alone, the financial services sector employed 1,447 former federal employees to carry out their lobbying efforts, swarming all over Congress. And who were their top lobbyists? Members of Congress — in fact, 73 former Members of Congress.
According to a report by the Institute for America’s Future, by the following year, the six biggest banks employed 243 lobbyists who once worked in the federal government, including 33 who had worked as chiefs of staff for members of Congress and 54 who had worked as staffers for the banking oversight committees in the Senate or the House.
The point here is simple: Eric Cantor isn’t the exception — he’s the rule. The ties between Washington and Wall Street run deep.