Bailed-out Banks on K St. Spree

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Bailed-out automakers like General Motors and Chrysler and their banking brethren who the government rescued in 2008 and 2009 are on a K Street shopping spree. As The Hill reports today, those companies that pleaded for billions in government funding to stay afloat are now hiring the top lobbying firepower that Washington has to offer, making sure their voices are heard as Congress tackles a spate of new bills like comprehensive financial-reform and health-care legislation.

General Motors, for instance, has hired three big lobbying outfits—Public Strategies, Navigators, and Dutko Worldwide—to press lawmakers on issues such as tax reform and auto safety, the latter a hot-button issue given the recent hearings in Congress on Toyota’s safety woes. And two big-name players in the banking world—Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley—have ramped up their lobbying arsenal as well in the past two or three months. In December and January, Goldman hired the Harold Ford Group and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher to lobby on financial-reform legislation, and Morgan Stanley retained the law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in January to work on financial-reform—an issue that could have seismic effects on how the two firms and the rest of Wall Street do business.

This ramp-up of lobbying firepower, especially among the big banks, almost surely means a weaker financial-reform bill will emerge from Congress. As our own Kevin Drum reported earlier this year, Big Finance’s foot soldiers in Washington pretty much own capital already. And if Goldman and its allies are now beefing up their ranks even more, you can bet they’ll win more than a few victories in watering down any effort, however well-intended, to rein in the big banks.

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