By Dave Levinthal
Wall Street-related political donations are bolstering Republicans' political fortunes this summer as financial interests have suddenly -- and
dramatically -- shifted their contributions away from Democrats, who they largely favored last year.
In both the first and second quarters of this year, the broad finance, insurance and real estate sector has favored Republican candidates and committees in its political giving, a Center for Responsive Politics analysis finds. The same holds true for both the more narrow commercial banking and securities and investment industries.
This trend is a notable departure from last year, when the finance, insurance and real estate sector sent more money to federal-level Democrats than Republicans during each quarter, the Center finds. People and political action committees associated with the securities and investment industry favored Democrats as recently as 2009's 4th quarter, while the commercial banking industry favored Democrats as recently as 2009's 1st quarter.
The findings by the Center, which underscore a preliminary analysis from August, indicate an increased frustration with congressional Democrats by Wall Street interests, many of which are still smarting from passage of federal financial reforms they consider onerous. (Download a full quarter-by-quarter breakdown of Wall Street contribution amounts here: financequarterly.xlsx )
People and political action committees associated with the finance, insurance and real estate sector significantly favored Democratic candidates during the early months of 2009.
But in February, a dramatic shift occurred -- to Republicans' advantage, the Center finds.
That month, Republicans represented 17 of the top 25 federal-level recipients of finance, insurance and real estate-related money. It's a shift that's persisted, too: In each month since June, at least two-thirds of the sector's 25 favorite candidates have been Republicans.
It's with little irony that this change in donation patterns coincided with congressional Democrats' aggressively pushing financial reform legislation -- legislation highly unpopular with many banks and financial houses.
Follow the shift in how many candidates among the finance, insurance and real estate sector's top targets were in each month Democrats and Republicans:
And click here to download a month-by-month list of the top 25 recipients of finance, insurance and real estate sector political contributions from January 2009 to June 2010: FIREcontribs.xlsx
Consider the case of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), traditionally a prime Wall Street target.
In each month between January 2009 and August 2009, Reid ranked among the top five federal-level recipients of finance, insurance and real estate-related donations but for one month -- March 2009 -- when he ranked No. 7.
But between September 2009 and June, Reid failed to crack the top five even once.
His best showing, in May, placed him 6th among congressional candidates -- one of only three times since September 2009 that he's even managed to finish a month in the top 10.
By June, only two of the top 10 recipients of finance, insurance and real estate-related political cash were Democrats: Sens. Charles Schumer ($237,700) and Kirsten Gillibrand ($259,471), both of whom count Wall Street as a constituent.
Among the Republicans within June's top 10 list: Senate candidates Carly Fiorina of California, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Overall, the finance, insurance and real estate sector has funneled about $194.4 million into federal politics through June 30, with Democrats for the entire cycle maintaining a narrow edge in overall contributions -- 51 percent to 48 percent.
Such a figure puts the finance, insurance and real estate sector on pace to easily exceed its federal-level political contribution total from the 2006 midterm cycle -- $262.9 million.
During this year's second quarter, the finance, insurance and real estate sector pumped $28.54 million in federal-level contributions into the political system, with $16.29 million going to Republican candidates and interests, while about $12.1 million went to Democrats.
Compare that to the first quarter of 2009, when the sector sent $15.32 million the way of Democrats, compared to $10.1 million to Republicans.
Through June 30, political action committees alone from the finance, insurance and real estate sector had contributed $49.4 million to federal political candidates and committees. That already exceeds what PACs from this sector spent for the entire 2002 election cycle -- $47 million.
Center for Responsive Politics Senior Researchers Dan Auble and Doug Weber contributed to this report.