The Tea Party likes to wrap itself in “grassroots” contempt for wealthy elites, but the 12 leading Tea Party Senate candidates have accepted over $4.6 million in campaign contributions from Wall Street for the upcoming election.
Despite all the Tea Party rhetoric against big, bad bailouts, the leading candidates have had no problem accepting millions of dollars from Big Finance to further their electoral prospects. Every single candidate has taken money from what the Center for Responsive Politics characterizes as the FIRE lobby—finance, insurance and real estate—a category that includes all of the big financial interests who benefited from the Wall Street bailout.
A full tally of Wall Street contributions to the Tea Party’s Senate team is below, but some of the Tea Party’s biggest figures have been top recipients: Pennsylvania candidate Pat Toomey, Florida hopeful Marco Rubio and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., have all brought in over $1 million each, while Washington candidate Dino Rossi has pulled in more than $750,000 from Wall Street.
This orgy of Wall Street funding stands in stark contrast to many of the candidates’ campaign postures. Toomey, in particular, has been vocal about his supposed outrage over the Wall Street bailout, but didn’t mind raking in almost $1.2 million from Wall Street to fund his campaign. Toomey worked in the derivatives business on Wall Street for years before jumping through the revolving door into politics. He even helped write the repeal of Glass-Steagall—one of the landmark acts of financial deregulation that paved the way for the Great Crash of 2008.
Kentucky Tea Partier Rand Paul has an entire section of his website dedicated to bashing bailouts, but he’s raked in over $180,000 from Wall Street for this election. After blasting Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, in the Republican primaries for his vote in favor of the Wall Street bailout, Utah Tea Partier Mike Lee accepted over $82,000 from the financial world.
Take a look at the Senate Tea Party’s Wall Street haul (click image for larger view):
Other Tea Party candidates openly advertise their willingness to do Wall Street’s bidding. Washington Tea Partier Dino Rossi has vowed to appeal the financial reform bill that Congress passed this year, and he has $750,253 worth of reasons to make such a pledge.
Still others blast both “bailouts” and “regulations,” while shying away from specific mentions of “Wall Street.” Florida’s Marco Rubio, Colorado’s Ken Buck, West Virginia’s John Raese and Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell all take this tack. All of them accepted big bucks from Big Finance.
This lack of specificity from high-profile Tea Partiers is astonishing, given the economic significance of Wall Street’s recent excess. Tea Party candidates love to claim that government spending is wasteful while bashing regulation and praising the private sector. But in all of human history, no entity—public or private– has spent money more wastefully than Wall Street did during the housing bubble. By inflating an $8 trillion housing bubble, Wall Street poured money that could have supported sustainable jobs into a speculative cesspool. When that bubble burst, the economy lost 8 million jobs, and American families were decimated. Deregulation will only make things worse—the sheer lack of regulations in the mortgage market was what allowed Wall Street to wreak havoc over the past decade.
It’s easy for politicians to make vague statements against bailouts. But far more should be expected from serious Senate candidates. Tea Partiers need to specify how they will rein in Wall Street to make sure our economy functions properly. And they need to explain how the $4.6 million they’ve accepted from Wall Street will affect their governing decisions.
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