all Street’s money oozes into many dark crevices in Washington. The financial services industry pumped $2 billion into the 2015-16 election cycle and managed to easily outpace that amount during this year’s midterm election. Other than the aggregate figures, there is much we don’t know about the exact ways this money is used to influence our political systems. But from time to time, we do get a particularly vivid peek into how Wall Street cash distorts debates about policy.
For years, the group No Labels and its close partner, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, have quietly promoted policies that are wrapped in the mantle of bipartisanship and pitched as “non-ideological,” while being in the pay of corporate interests. They produce reports, sponsor events, and weigh in on policy on behalf of unnamed corporate donors.
Even when Wall Street isn’t directly funding specific activities, its pervasive funding helps get its talking points into conversations with members of Congress.
Even when Wall Street isn’t directly funding specific activities, its pervasive funding helps get its talking points into conversations with members of Congress. At an orientation program run by Harvard University, former executives or lobbyists with Goldman Sachs, Bank of New York Mellon, and the private equity trade association were on the agenda as “experts” on Congress. The label fits in the way the Big Bad Wolf is an expert in porcine house construction.
Recently published internal documents blew the lid off how much of the money behind No Labels comes from Wall Street. Its donors include executives from major asset managers (Trian Fund Management), hedge funds (Oaktree Capital Management) and private equity (Apollo Global Management), among others. Donors pledged $4.8 million to the No Labels non-profit arm in 2017, and also sent industry money to PACs affiliated with the group.
Former Democratic senators Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh, who both worked as industry lobbyists after leaving Congress, are affiliated with No Labels and the Problem Solvers Caucus. Rep. Mark Pocan, now a co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, has written with remarkable candor about being “duped” by both organizations when he first joined the House in 2012. Beneath the veneer of bipartisanship, Pocan soon discovered the true aim of both groups — to import a pro-corporate agenda into Democratic politics.