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Senators Appointed to Conference Committee Connected to Financial Industry

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Senators selected to work to combine the House and Senate financial regulation bills in a conference committee are some of the top recipients of campaign contributions from the finance, insurance and real estate sector (FIRE). In total, these twelve senators have received over $57 million from the FIRE sector over the course of their careers, according to data obtained from Center for Responsive Politics.

SenatorCareer FIRE Contributions
Schumer, Charles E (D-NY)$16,708,236.00
Dodd, Chris (D-CT)$14,067,712.00
Shelby, Richard C (R-AL)$5,635,030.00
Chambliss, Saxby (R-GA)$3,507,960.00
Corker, Bob (R-TN)$3,188,550.00
Johnson, Tim (D-SD)$3,150,865.00
Reed, Jack (D-RI)$2,918,732.00
Lincoln, Blanche (D-AR)$2,612,159.00
Harkin, Tom (D-IA)$2,534,445.00
Crapo, Mike (R-ID)$1,809,715.00
Gregg, Judd (R-NH)$1,070,249.00
Leahy, Patrick (D-VT)$637,282.00

New York's Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is the leading recipient among the Senate conferees with $16.7 million in contributions over his career. Schumer has long been an ally of the New York-based financial industry, but has been remarkably quiet as Congress has focused on reforming Wall Street. Schumer remains in support of the bill despite hometown pressure from industry friends, campaign contributors and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

His support for the financial reform bill goes against a long history of supporting deregulatory actions for Wall Street. In the late 1990s and 2000 Schumer enthusiastically supported measures that ended the Glass-Steagall separation between commercial and investment banks and the enforced deregulation of derivatives trading.

The new rules for derivatives trading included in the Senate bill remain a serious sticking point in the coming conference committee. Senate Banking Committee chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., has already attempted once to eliminate a provision in the bill, penned by conference committee member Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., ($2.61 million), requiring banks to spin off their derivatives trading portofolios. Dodd is the second largest recipient of FIRE campaiagn contributions on the conference committee with $14 million for his career.

Dodd is also connected to Wall Street with seven of his former staffers currently lobbying for financial organizations. Organizations represented by Dodd's former staffers include Goldman Sachs, Genworth Financial, MBIA, National Association of Mortgage Brokers and New York Bankers Association.

One former Dodd staffer turned financial industry lobbyist runs a financial lobbying firm with the former senior advisor to Dodd's Republican counterpart on the Banking Committee, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the third highest recipient of contributions from the FIRE sector on the conference committee ($5.63 million).

Andrew Lowenthal and Lendell Porterfield run a bipartisan lobby shop providing clients with instant access to the Senate Banking Committee and, with both of their former bosses on the financial reform conference committee, the final chance to change the sweeping regulatory bill.

Recently joining Lowenthal and Porterfield as a partner in their firm is Dwight Fettig, a former Legislative Director to Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., the sixth highest recipient of FIRE contributions appointed to the conference committee ($3.15 million). Johnson stands to become the next chairman of the Banking Committee after Dodd retires this year. The credit card industry, largely based in his state, has always counted on the support of the senior South Dakota senator.

Johnson, a career recipient of $391,400 in campaign contributions from the credit card industry, was one of ten Democrats to vote against an amendment to the financial reform bill capping “swipe fees” for debit card transactions. “Swipe fees” are charges to merchants for purchases made by customers using debit cards and often drive up retail prices for consumers. Credit card companies and banks are still lobbying hard to remove this provision from the bill. Johnson, however, is only one of four conference committees members to vote against the amendment making it unlikely the provision will be removed.

The conference committee will have to decide which portions of the House and Senate bills will be placed into a final version to be voted on and signed by the President. The House and Senate must pass bills with identical language. To do so, conference committees including members from both chambers meet to craft a compromise between the House and the Senate. The House has yet to name conferees.

The remaining members on the conference committee include Democrats Jack Reed, D-R.I., ($2.92 million), Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, ($2.53 million) and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., ($637,282) and Republicans Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., ($3.51 million), Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ($3.19 million), Mike Crapo, R-Wyo. ($1.81 million) and Judd Gregg, R-N.H., ($1.07 million).