TARP funds come back to Washington as campaign donations
David Edwards and Joe Byrne
Published: Friday March 27, 2009

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Recent filings in the Federal Election Commission's database revealed that in the first two months of this year, at least $250,000 of bail-out funds returned to Washington in the form of campaign finances.

NBC's chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd reported yesterday that both Democrats and Republicans have been receiving donations from bail-out firms. Two of the most vocal opponents of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program(TARP) received some of the largest donations. Representative John Boehner(R-OH) received $5,000 from Bank of America, $5,000 from American Express, and $1,500 from U.S. Bancorp, while Eric Cantor(R-VA) received a total of $21,500 from Citigroup, Bank of America, American Express, Chrysler, and UBS. Cantor has opposed the TARP program in numerous interviews - “Why isn't it that Washington gets it anymore?” he asked on MSNBC's Morning Joe earlier this month – but has yet to make a statement concerning the kick-backs from the bailed-out banking firms. 11 of 26 representatives who received donations were on the committee responsible for bail-out oversight.

Corporations can donate to political campaigns through their Political Action Committees(PAC). Corporate PAC's ostensibly manage the political donations of all their employees, but the majority of the donations come from a small handful of executive officers. Corporate funding pays for a large part of Congressional campaigns, but the idea that taxpayer money given to banks through TARP is being donated to politicians for their campaigns is making some observers nervous. An anonymous bank fundraiser told Newsweek, “These are treacherous waters.”

In addition to recipients in the House of Representatives, 14 Senators were sent checks in February.

Both sides of the aisle have received bail-out kick-backs. $15,000 was sent to each party's campaign committee. Newsweek reported that House Democrats “have quietly passed the word” that they will be accepting campaign funds from companies like Bank of America, but only after public animosity over the bail-out dies down. Individually, Senator Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Representative Barney Frank have said that they returned checks from firms that received more than $1 billion of government money. “If I, as chairman of this committee, were taking money from these would create the kind of distraction that we don't need at this time,” Frank explained to Chuck Todd.

This video is from NBC's The Today Show, broadcast Mar. 27, 2009.

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