Goldman PAC hikes lawmaker donations

Gave $290,500 last month alone

By Jonathan D. Salant
Bloomberg News / April 22, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Employees of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which is facing a fraud suit by the Securities and Exchange Commission, gave more money to congressional candidates last month than in the previous 14 months combined.

Goldman’s political action committee contributed $290,500 in March, compared with $209,500 between Jan. 1, 2009, and Feb. 28, 2010, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Donations included $15,000 apiece to Republican House and Senate fund-raising committees, and contributions to lawmakers from both parties and their leadership political action committees.

Melissa Daly, a spokeswoman for the New York company, declined to comment.

Goldman, JPMorgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley were among the top 10 US banks that accelerated lobbying last month as the Senate became embroiled in a partisan debate over the rewriting of financial regulations. The legislation could head to a vote in the Senate this week.

Goldman, Bank of America, and US Bancorp were among seven banks that increased the amount spent on lobbying during the first three months of the year, compared with the same period in 2009, reports filed with Congress showed. The US Chamber of Commerce doubled its lobbying spending in the first quarter.

“We’re in the endgame,’’ said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the US Public Interest Research Group, which is pressing for stronger regulations. “They’re all-in to defeat reform.’’

Senators are considering legislation that would set up a mechanism to unwind firms if their failure would threaten the financial system, create a consumer-protection bureau, and bolster oversight of derivatives. The House passed its version late last year.

The financial firms are teaming up with other business groups to shape the regulations, dispatching executives to Capitol Hill, sending letters to lawmakers, and contributing to key legislators.

The Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business group, spent $25 million lobbying in the first quarter, more than double from the same period a year ago. It had 60 lobbyists registered to work on financial regulations through January, more than any other group, and is trying to get members to meet with every senator, the chamber said.

In the past two decades, Goldman’s employees have been among the most generous political contributors. They gave $994,795 to President Obama’s l 2008 campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington research group.