When the members of the Senate Agriculture Committee meet today to consider the nominations of three new commissioners for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), they will be voting on three professionals who have played the political donor game.
The two Democrats and one Republican nominated for slots on the commission, which has had a major role in the implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, all have made significant donations to candidates in their respective parties, according to data downloaded from Sunlight’s Influence Explorer.
Timothy Massad, President Barack Obama’s choice to chair the CFTC, distributed at least $162,600 to Democratic candidates and party committees. This amount includes nearly $80,000 to the Democratic National Committee and $4,600 to Obama. Other lawmakers who have benefited from his contributions include former Sen. Hillary Clinton and her Democratic colleague from New York, Sen. Chuck Schumer, along with Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.
Currently a Treasury official and formerly a securities attorney with Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Massad has been tapped to fill the role of former Chairman Gary Gensler, who left the commission in January and was widely disliked by banks and big financial institutions which felt he was too tough of a regulator. Liberal senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders., D-Vt., have questioned whether Massad will be as hard-nosed as Gensler.
Sharon Bowen, an attorney with Latham & Watkins, has been eyed suspiciously by Wall Street reform groups and Democratic officials on the Hill because of her firm’s client list — big financial companies — and her lack of a track record on reform, according to this report by the New Republic. She has contributed at least $12,775, all to Democrats, two-thirds of which went to help elect President Obama. She has also been criticized from the other side of the aisle for her work as acting chair of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), where she serves as an Obama appointee. Sens. David Vitter, R-La., and Thad Cochran, R-Miss., have questioned the SIPC’s decision not to compensate victims of R. Allen Stanford’s $7 billion Ponzi scheme, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Christopher Giancarlo, an executive vice president for GFI Group Inc. who would fill an open Republican slot on the commission, has distributed at least $26,700 to Republican federal candidates and parties. While he was a supporter of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney — and the bulk of his contributions have gone to Republicans — he has also supported the occasional Democrat: Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., none of whom are in Congress anymore.
The CFTC is an independent agency charged with protecting the public from “fraud, manipulation, abusive practices and systemic risk related to derivatives … and to foster transparent, open, competitive and financially sound markets.” Among the initiatives the agency has pushed in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown — that was in part blamed on derivatives trading — is the rule-setting standards for future funds, such as the failed firm MF Global, which was led by Jon Corzine, a Democrat who served as a senator and as governor of New Jersey.