Just two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of opening the floodgates of corporate donations into electoral politics, a class of Wall Street Republicans have assembled around a new GOP group that aims to capitalize on corporate America’s empowerment. According to The New York Times, the group aims to “develop and market conservative ideas…hoping to capitalize on the fundraising and electioneering possibilities opened up by a recent Supreme Court ruling.” “This administration as well as Citizens United — when you combine the two the prospects for funding these types of efforts are greatly enhanced,” said former senator Norm Coleman, one of the group’s organizers.
The Republican figures behind the American Action Network have a long history and symbiotic relationship with Wall Street. Here’s a breakdown of the key players in the group:
The Wall Street Republicans behind American Action Network
Robert K. SteelFormer Goldman Sachs Exec & Wachovia CEORobert Steel spent close to 30 years with Goldman Sachs before joining his Goldman colleague Henry Paulson in the Treasury Department. Steel and Paulson helped ensure that Bush’s 2008 Wall Street bailout would leave Goldman “among the biggest beneficiaries of the $700 billion U.S. plan.”
Kenneth LangoneHome Depot Founder, Investment BankerWall Street titan Kenneth Langone was called “The Man Behind Grasso’s Payday” after NYSE Chairman Richard Grasso was awarded $139.5 million amidst controversy over Wall Street excesses in 2004. Langone, chair of the compensation committee, defended the exuberant pay, arguing that Grasso was entitled to the amount. Then-NY AG Eliot Spitzer filed a lawsuit against the NYSE — including Langone — charging that “the board of the NYSE was misled about parts” of Grasso’s compensation. In 2004, a businessman in Florida also sued Langone for $1.8 billion. The suit charged him with “conspiring to interfere and interfering with business relationships,” as well as “extortion, defamation, fraudulent misrepresentation, and violations of the Florida Antitrust Act and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act.”
Ed GillespieFmr RNC Chairman, LobbyistEd Gillespie’s lobbying firm includes a host of clients whose interests are grounded in Wall Street: Enron, Citibank, Bank of America, Zurich Financial, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the “clean coal” front group ACCCE.
Fred MalekThayer Capital Partners FounderFred Malek is a super-wealthy Republican operative who got his start with the Nixon administration. The former co-owner of the Texas Rangers with George W. Bush was responsible for a 1972 scheme that was investigated by the Senate Watergate Committee to politicize broad segments of the federal government in favor of reelecting Nixon. In 2004, Malek “was fined $250,000 for what the SEC called a ‘fraudulent scheme.’”
The list doesn’t end there. Coleman and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour are also involved in the organization. Coleman’s record defending Wall Street bank interests includes his support of the 2005 Bush bankruptcy bill. The bill was widely panned for making bankruptcy more difficult for individuals including service members, veterans, and senior citizens. On top of that, Citigroup tapped both Barbour and Gillespie when the banking conglomerate needed representatives to look out for its interests on Capitol Hill.
It is clear that the parties involved in forming the American Action Network all have a history of fighting for pro-corporate policies. Malek already summed up what we can expect from the group going into the future: “My strength is loyalty, my downfall is loyalty.”