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Republicans Getting More Campaign Cash From Wall Street

The Republicans' resistance to financial reform is risky in an election year. Whatever the reason, it comes as big financial firms are shifting more of their political contributions toward the GOP.

Yet another vote to move financial reform forward in the Senate failed on Tuesday, when lawmakers voted 57-41 to block debate on Sen. Chris Dodd's bill.

For the second day in a row, Senate Republicans uniformly voted to block the bill. They were joined by a single Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

(Nelson, as we've noted, had advocated for a derivatives exemption pushed by one of his top campaign donors, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. That exemption will apparently not go into the Senate bill.)

But what do Republicans stand to gain from their opposition to the bill?

After all, a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that almost two-thirds of Americans favor tougher regulation of Wall Street. Another survey, conducted by Pew, had similar findings. In that survey, 61 percent of Americans favored stricter regulation of financial firms, up from 54 percent in October.

With elections coming up in November, Republicans' decision to block financial reform didn't quite make sense to me. And then I read in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal that "for the first time since 2004, the biggest Wall Street firms are now giving most of their campaign donations to Republicans."

Of course, campaign donations are always a little tricky. Just because the dollars are pouring in is hardly a sign of quid pro quo. (Is a politician taking a position because of a donor's generous contributions--or is the donor contributing because of the politician's position?)  

Either way, it's worth following the money. And according to the Journal, Republicans are now the favored party of the big financial firms:

A Wall Street Journal analysis of 12 large financial services companies, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. shows that they have collectively made $1.4 million in political donations, with 52% going to Republicans so far this year. That's a reversal from last year, according to the most recent round of fund-raising reports covering January, February and March.

Goldman Sachs, for instance, has historically been a strong donor to Democrats. "Since 1989, there has never been an election in which Goldman gave more to Republicans than Democrats," said the Journal, citing the Center for Responsive Politics. But in the first three months of this year, it gave 52 percent of its political action committee donations to Republicans. Morgan Stanley, by contrast, gave 80 percent of its political action committee donations to Republicans in the first quarter of this year.

Democrats have still taken in more donations from Wall Street in the 2009 and 2010 election cycle, according to the Journal, but in the last few months, that trend seems to be reversing. Congressional Republicans may not have much trust from voters, but if donations are any indication, it seems they're winning over Wall Street.

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