Letter to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission

January 13, 2010

The Honorable Philip Angelides

Chairman, The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission

1717 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 800

Washington, D.C. 20006

The Honorable Bill Thomas

Vice Chairman, The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission

1717 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 800

Washington, D.C. 20006

Dear Mr. Angelides and Mr. Thomas,

The four CEOs who will appear before your committee this week lead companies whose employees and political action committees have donated more than $63 million to members of Congress since the 2000 election cycle. During this same period, these companies spent $109 million to lobby Congress in a concerted and largely successful effort to limit or weaken the regulatory oversight of their industry. Many economists and other observers agree that this weakly regulated regime helped lead to the economic morass in which we now find ourselves.

We strongly urge the financial sector representatives to answer the question, "what role did campaign contributions play in your attempts to influence Congressional action on financial issues?"

It is also incumbent upon your commission to invite expert testimony on the role of money in the political process and the impact it has on policy decisions. We are willing to provide this testimony or recommend others who would be able to speak to the issue.

In addition to speaking with experts, we suggest exploring the avenues provided below to better understand how the influence of campaign donations from this sector contributed to the financial crisis:

. Review e-mail traffic from company staff, lobbyists, and other consultants to members of Congress and their aides.

. Review any internal corporate documents that reference campaign fundraising.

. Seek testimony from Wall Street lobbyists to more fully understand the political and policy strategies they employed to influence lawmakers and the role of campaign contributions in carrying out those strategies.

. Explore any written or verbal requests made by lawmakers for fundraising assistance from financial industry leaders or lobbyists.

The CEOs of the banks appearing before your committee, bailed out by the taxpayers for the problems they created, are at it again lobbying Congress to water-down pending financial overhaul legislation, and are using their campaign contributions as leverage. Americans know that these expenditures and contributions are made to get results. Unfortunately, the success of this industry in the past wielding its political capital helped lead to the economic meltdown.

That is why we believe it is just as critical to investigate the political influence of this industry as it is to understand the most complicated CDO swap or complex derivative.

We believe, as you do, that this commission must provide a comprehensive report to Congress and the American people on the economic collapse so that safeguards can be put in place to prevent similar events in the future. A study of the use and influence of campaign contributions in affecting legislation must be a part of this study.


Bob Edgar

President and CEO

Common Cause

Nick Nyhart

President and CEO

Public Campaign

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