Reposted from Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees by Frank Whitaker
As you probably already know, Wall Street hacks from Third Way recently wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal criticizing the economic populism of figures like Elizabeth Warren. As to be expected, professional centrists and corporate panderers like Ron Fournier and Mike Allen were big boosters of the piece.
Although Third Way bills itself as a Democratic think tank, it should, more appropriately, be called a Wall Street think tank. Wall Street has no inherent party allegiance; it's allegiance is to its own self-interest. Here at the Daily Kos, Hunter pointed out how just about every single member of the Third Way board of trustees is an investment banker. Lee Fang at The Nation highlighted how the group gets its money from corporate lobbying firms and GOP donors:
Buried inside the annual report for Third Way is a revelation that the group relies on a peculiar DC consulting firm to raise half a million a year: Peck, Madigan, Jones & Stewart. Peck Madigan is no ordinary nonprofit buckraiser. The group is, in fact, a corporate lobbying firm that represents Deutsche Bank, Intel, the Business Roundtable, Amgen, AT&T, the International Swaps & Derivatives Association, MasterCard, New York Life Insurance, PhRMA and the US Chamber of Commerce, among others.
The two organizations complement each other well. Peck Madigan signs as a lobbyist for the government of New Zealand on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal; Third Way aggressively promotes the deal. Peck Madigan clients push for entitlement cuts, and so does Third Way.
Notice that Humana, a major health insurance company, lists its $25,000 donation to Third Way not as a donation to a think tank but as part of its yearly budget spent on lobbying activity, up there with the Florida Chamber and other trade associations. The company views financial gifts to Third Way as part of its strategy for increasing its profit-making political influence.
What’s more, Third Way’s leadership has tenuous connections to the Democratic Party it hopes to shape. Daniel Loeb, a hedge fund manager listed as a trustee on Third Way’s 2012 annual disclosure, bundled $556,031 for Mitt Romney last year. Third Way board member Derek Kaufman, another hedge fund executive, also gave to Romney.
If Wall Street is going to attack Warren via their lackeys at Third Way, Warren is going to come right back at them. Today, she sent a letter
to the CEOs of JP Morgan & Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley--the nation's six largest financial institutions--urging them to disclose their financial contributions to think tanks. They are required by law to disclose information about their lobbying. Although they are not currently required by law to disclose information about their donations to think tanks, their donations to think tanks effectively serve the same purpose.
Dear Mr. Dimon, Mr. Moynihan, Mr. Corbat, Mr. Stumpf, Mr. Blankfein , and Mr. Gorman:
Five years ago, the "Too Big to Fail" status of America's largest financial institutions led to the near-collapse of the economy and massive government bailouts. That crisis was the result of reckless activity on Wall Street and regulatory failures in Washington. As Wall Street loaded up on risk, regulators failed to identify and to respond to warning signs in the mortgage market and across the financial system.
To avoid repeating those mistakes, and to prevent future crises, policymakers need access to objective, high-quality research, data, and analysis about our consumer and financial markets. As you know, private think tanks are extremely well-suited to provide this research and analysis, but for it to be valuable, such research and analysis must be truly independent. If the information provided by think tanks is little more than another form of corporate lobbying, then policymakers and the public should be aware of the difference.
As you know, your institutions are free to express your views to lawmakers and regulators through your lobbying efforts and those of the trade associations that represent you. But the law requires that there be transparency around your direct efforts to influence policymaking through lobbying, with disclosures about your lobbying expenditures. Under current law, however, your institutions are permitted to make financial contributions to think tanks without any similar public disclosure. This means that you can make enormous contributions that threaten both the independence and public credibility of the work of think tanks out of the public view.
I am writing to encourage you to voluntarily disclose financial contributions your institutions make to think tanks. In my view, policies by your institutions to conceal those contributions from public view are wrong. Greater transparency will benefit your shareholders, policymakers, and, ultimately, the public.
As the CEOs of public companies, you have an obligation to expend corporate resources only in ways that advance the interests of your shareholders. For that reason, I believe your shareholders have a right to know both which think tanks your companies are supporting and the extent of that support so that they can assess for themselves whether they benefit from these contributions.
When you use corporate resources to support think tanks, there are only two possible outcomes from public disclosure-those contributions do not influence the work of the think tanks or those contributions do influence the think tanks' research and conclusions. Either way, shareholders have a right to know how corporate resources are spent, and, even more importantly, policymakers and the public should be aware of your contributions and evaluate the work of the think tanks accordingly.
To be clear, your institutions have every right under the law to give financial support to think tanks, and think tanks have every right to accept that support. But just as there is transparency around your direct efforts to influence policymaking through lobbying, the same transparency should exist for any indirect efforts you make to influence policymaking through financial contributions to think tanks.
I very much hope that your institutions work to set a new standard in this area by voluntarily disclosing the contributions you make to think tanks. I am confident that by increasing public disclosure, your companies can generate goodwill from shareholders, policymakers, and the public that will serve your long-term interests and the long-term interests of the American people.
I would be happy to discuss this issue with you further, and I hope you reach out to my office if you are interested in doing so.
When the Washington Post criticized the PCCC's campaign to expand Social Security, Elizabeth Warren followed up the next day with an excellent floor speech
in rebuttal. It's always good to see her fight back.