Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Analysis finds lawmakers who oversee financial institutions do more borrowing, at better rates. (Photo: Naoki Nakashima/flickr/cc)

'Good to Be King': The Very Good Loans Key Lawmakers Get from Wall Street Banks

Members of Congress who ostensibly oversee Wall Street 'allegedly received preferential treatments from lenders'

Deirdre Fulton

A new study identifies "a direct channel through which financial institutions contribute to the net worth of members of the U.S. Congress"—especially those ostensibly tasked with overseeing those very Wall Street entities.

The paper from London Business School professors Ahmed Tahoun and Florin Vasvari, which is based on a "unique dataset" provided by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), finds that members of Congress sitting on the finance committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives "report greater levels of leverage and new liabilities as a proportion of their total net worth, relative to when they are not part of the finance committee or relative to other congressional members."

The authors write that their analysis was "motivated in part by anecdotal evidence suggesting that some U.S. politicians, who are in a position to potentially affect the future performance of financial institutions that lend to them, have allegedly received preferential treatments from lenders."

In other words, as International Business Times reporter David Sirota wrote Friday: "It is good to be king."

Sirota explained:

In evaluating lawmakers from 2004 to 2011, the researchers found that finance committee members' personal borrowing tended to jump in the first year they were appointed to the panels—a trend not seen for other lawmakers who were given seats on other powerful committees. Similarly, the data show that upon joining the finance panels, lawmakers tended to be given 32 percent more time—or on average four and a half years more—to pay back those new debts than loans they previously had and that other members of Congress have.

[...] The study, which was supported by the Institute for New Economic Thinking, did not evaluate whether the loans and interest rates constitute a systemic violation of congressional rules designed to prevent financial institutions from using loans to deliver special gifts to lawmakers. The restrictions are explicit: the U.S. House's ethics manual declares that "there can also be an improper gift when a Member or staff person is given a loan at a below-market interest rate."

The researchers conclude by confirming that indeed, data indicates that "finance committee members may use their oversight and legislative power to potentially extract benefits from financial institutions."

They add: "We hope that additional research in this area will provide further insights into the personal borrowing activities of members of the U.S. Congress and how this borrowing influences their committee activities on legislative matters and their positions with respect to various pieces of legislation that affect the financial sector."

Look here to see the members of the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate Banking Committee, and the House Financial Services Committee, all cited in the paper.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Mark Meadows 'Did Seek That Pardon, Yes Ma'am,' Hutchinson Testifies

The former aide confirmed that attorney Rudy Giuliani also sought a presidential pardon related to the January 6 attack.

Jessica Corbett ·


UN Chief Warns of 'Ocean Emergency' as Leaders Confront Biodiversity Loss, Pollution

"We must turn the tide," said Secretary-General António Guterres. "A healthy and productive ocean is vital to our shared future."

Julia Conley ·


'I Don't F—ing Care That They Have Weapons': Trump Wanted Security to Let Armed Supporters March on Capitol

"They're not here to hurt me," Trump said on the day of the January 6 insurrection, testified a former aide to ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Jake Johnson ·


Facebook Removing Posts About Mailing Abortion Pills—But Not Guns

"Corporations are not your allies in the advancement of civil rights," said one observer.

Kenny Stancil ·


'Morally Bankrupt' G7 Slammed for 'Caving' to Fossil Fuel Lobby on Climate

"People in poverty around the world will pay the highest price for this backtrack by some of the wealthiest countries," one activist warned of the group's new statement on gas investments.

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo