The Center for Responsive Politics does an amazing job of organizing campaign contribution data. While these numbers don’t include every PR push, non-profit organization, and revolving door deal, they do give us a glimpse at total lobbying.

Let’s take a look at some of the recent bad boys of finance. Goldman Sachs is among the biggest contributors in the financial industry. Over twenty years, it has given $31,462,375 to politicians – that’s an average of $1,573,199 per year.

Although this is large in comparison to other contributors, it’s chump change for a major corporation. The $12.9 billion received from the AIG bailout is a dinosaur-sized return for the $31 million investment. The rate of return comes out to a jaw-dropping 40,900%!

Other big financial players contribute even less to politics. Over twenty years, AIG gave $9,772,862 –practically nothing compared to the heavy hitters. Bank of America’s $17,110,538 is not particularly awe-inspiring either. Compare these small figures to the Capital Purchase Program’s payouts.

Citigroup surprisingly almost matched Goldman Sachs with $27,110,233. Yet, whenever one hears about Wall Street and Washington scheming together, Goldman Sachs is the preferred poster boy. Personally, I think the name sounds more mysterious, conniving, and powerful. This is a simplistic explanation for the company being singled out but probably close to the truth. (Also, having former employees as the Secretaries of Treasury doesn’t help either.)

But what happens if a company doesn’t pay up? The answer is two words, Lehman Brothers. During the 2008 election cycle, these schmucks only gave $555,675 – and that was their biggest contribution to date. Prior to 2008, most Lehman contributions were below a quarter million every two years.

Lehman Brothers must have been confused. Apparently, they thought that we lived in a free market. Well, the company was certainly treated like it existed in a free market – it failed.


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