Several of the securities firms, banks, and law firms that are sponsoring the Democratic and Republican political conventions have spent tens of millions of dollars during the past four years lobbying, according to a collaborative study done by the Center for Responsive Politics and The Campaign Finance Institute.
The study released Wednesday details the political contributions and lobbying expenditures of nearly 200 sponsors of the two major political conventions occurring in the next two weeks. Some of the sponsors play a significant role in the municipal bond market. The Democrat's convention is slated to run today through Wednesday in Denver, and Republicans will convene in St. Paul, Minn., next week from Sept. 1 to 4.
While the report does not include exactly what each sponsor is giving to the conventions - that information does not have to be disclosed until 60 days following the convention - seeing how much various companies contributed and spent on lobbying over the past few years does help paint a picture of their Hill influence, according to CPR's communications director Massie Ritsch.
"What you're seeing is a measure of the political influence of the convention sponsors, driving home the point that the conventions are really just one element in their larger influence strategy," he said Friday. "What's going to go on in Denver and [St. Paul] over the next two weeks is really not unlike what happens in Washington every other day of the year. It's just a more concentrated, lavish, festive kind of gathering."
Of the dozen convention sponsors tied to the muni market, Hogan & Hartson LLP, an international law firm based here that served as bond counsel on $1.2 billion of bonds in 2007, according to data from Thomson Reuters, spent the most on lobbying from 2005 to 2008. Over the last three years, the firm spent $56.7 million on lobbying expenditures. During that same time frame, the firm and its employees donated $1.6 million to various political campaigns and parties, with nearly 75% of those donations going to Democratic efforts.
The second largest lobbying effort came from the law firm of Greenberg Traurig LLP, another Washington-based international firm, which served as bond counsel on some $5.2 billion of bond deals in 2007. Greenberg spent $23.3 million lobbying over the last three years, and donated $2.3 million during that time. Sixty percent of its donations went to Democratic campaigns or the Democratic Party, according to the report.
Citi spent the third-largest amount on lobbying at $23 million. However, the bank and its employees donated the most out of the 12 market participants. Roughly split evenly between Democratic and Republican campaigns, the bank donated $6.4 million total since 2005.
Morgan Stanley spent the most on lobbying in the last four years of all the securities and investment firms sponsoring the conventions, totaling $8.5 million, the report found. The firm also donated $5 million to various Democratic and Republican causes.
Wells Fargo Bank spent $6 million on lobbying in the last three years, and donated $2.3 million to federal campaigns.
Lehman Brothers Inc. and UBS AGeach spent $2.6 million on lobbying, and donated $3 million and $4.7 million to campaigns, respectively.
Cobank, First Bank Holding Co., US Bancorp, KeyCorp, and RBC Capital Markets round out the rest of the list, with each company spending less than $1.5 million over the last three years on lobbying, with KeyCorp and RBC allocating no funds toward lobbying efforts. Those five groups also each donated less than $1 million to various political campaigns during that same time, the report found.