Fact-Checking Obama's Fundraising-Letter Claims About Wall Street "Special Interests"


The president, hot on the heels of yet another legislative victory, is using it to fundraise:

From: Barack Obama info@barackobama.com
Date: May 22, 2010 1:42:33 PM EDT

Subject: They backed down
Reply-To: info@barackobama.com


On Thursday, the Senate passed historic Wall Street reform. This movement proved again that the strongest special interests, who for so long have called the shots in Washington, can be beat. […]

Now, the House and Senate must iron out their differences before I can sign it into law. But the financial industry will not give up. They have already spent more than $1 million per member of Congress, lobbying on this issue. And in the coming days, they will go all in. This is their last shot to stall, weaken, or kill reform, and they are not accustomed to losing.

But this movement has you—and together, we have beaten the special interests before.

Please donate $5 or more today to help Organizing for America continue to mobilize thousands—to counter the special interests' attacks and get strong Wall Street reform to my desk.

Wait, $1 million per Congress member "lobbying on this issue"? Thankfully, we have OpenSecrets.org to measure this stuff. What do we see?

That in the entire category of "Finance/Insurance/Real Estate," the total amount of all lobbying dollars in 2009-10 has been around $592 million. Not "on this issue," but on each and every issue that anybody in this broad category saw fit to lobby on. For instance, something that has squat-all to do with financial regulation: health care reform.

Of the nine main subcategories in OpenSecret's Finance/Industry/Real Estate grouping, far and away the biggest spender on lobbying during 2009-10 was "insurance," with $208 million. The biggest individual spenders on insurance-industry lobbying during that period was Blue Cross/Blue Shield ($18 million). Not only were these special interests not fighting the president's noble financial industry reforms, they were not fighting his health reforms either–as Timothy Carney and Peter Suderman detailed constantly through the legislative process, health care special interests by a wide margin backed Obama and his plan.

What about campaign contributions? According to OpenSecrets, the Finance/Industry/Real Estate category is A) "far and away the largest source of campaign contributions to federal candidates and parties," and B) split pretty even by major political party, with Democrats receiving slightly more in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles (that spread is even bigger for the subcategory of "Securities & Investment"). The top four recipients this season have been Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-$3.9 million), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-$1.8 million), Gov. Charlie Crist (I-$1.6 million) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-$1.5 million).

So to sum up: In order to push financial reform through the finish line, the president wants you to give him $5+ to counter special interest money that he pocketed to pass health care reform. Luckily for him, there's one born every minute.