Investing in Chaos

WaPo’s Tom Hamburger and Jia Lynn Yang did a nifty bit of reporting by looking at the pattern of political contributions made by the business interests (including the financial services industry) who were reportedly so terrified by the debt default threats of congressional conservatives. Turns out they were pretty heavily invested in the very perpetrators of this brinkmanship:

The lawmakers who voted against raising the debt ceiling last week count among their biggest donors the country’s most powerful banking lobby and companies such as Honeywell and AT&T — not just the activist conservative groups that have roiled the Republican Party.

The American Bankers Association gave more money over the past two election cycles to GOP lawmakers who in effect voted to allow the United States to default on its debt than those who voted against that scenario.

The ABA contributed $2.2 million to lawmakers who ultimately ignored the group’s warnings, second only to the Club for Growth and just ahead of Koch Industries, both of which are leading sources of funds for conservative candidates.

The numbers, revealed in a joint analysis by The Washington Post and the Center for Responsive Politics, illustrate the key role that big business donors played in supporting lawmakers who would later spurn one of the business community’s most emphatic requests not to vote for a default by the United States.

So will there be any repercussions for the wildly irresponsible Members who in effect voted to send the U.S. and global economies into unknown territory and possibly a meltdown? Hard to say:

The chief lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Bruce Josten, said the debt-ceiling roll call would be only one of many factors considered by the Chamber when it decides which candidates to support in 2014.

“Everyone has their own number one issue, and in the Chamber’s membership, again unlike any other association, we have a lot of members with a lot of different number one issues,” Josten said.

Similarly, Scott Talbott, senior vice president for policy at the Financial Services Roundtable, said: “This vote will be a factor in the future before we make contributions, though it will not necessarily determine the outcome.”

Somehow, I think that if these folks want to deter any repetition of debt limit hostage-taking, they might want to send a clearer message than this. The way it stands now, a Republican Member of Congress may feel quite secure in trying to blow up the world in order to keep those people from getting health insurance, so long as they can keep their business benefactors happy with a general attitude of snarling hostility to taxes, regulations and unions.

As the Good Book says (Matthew 6:21): “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.