In the 10 years leading up to current economic crisis, the financial sector spent $5 billion on political influence, according to a report by the Essential Information and the Consumer Education Foundation. From 1998 to 2008, investment firms, commercial banks, hedge funds, real estate companies, and insurance companies spent $1.725 billion on political contributions and $3.4 billion on lobbyists.
The report highlights 12 policy efforts that were the focus of the heavy influence spending. For the most part, the policy efforts involved doing what Robert Kaiser says lobbyists do best, stopping action. This came in the form of blocking reform bills and blocking regulation. Sometimes these actions came in the form of passing legislation that the financial sector supported.
In the wake of the financial collapse, we need to fully reassess, not only the financial sector, but also the political sector. First and foremost, the lobbying disclosure laws need to be given real teeth by requiring real-time disclosure of lobbying contacts (within 24 hours of each meeting), along with the nature and substance of each contact. Without real lobbying disclosure we will only allow the hidden manipulation of our political system to occur again.