Barclays Fallout Hits Washington

The Barclays scandal has laid waste to the bank’s top echelons, with the resignations of the chairman, the chief executive and the chief operating officer.

The repercussions have also reached the Mitt Romney campaign, which was relying on former CEO Robert E. Diamond Jr., an American, to co-host a London fundraiser.

A Romney spokesperson confirmed to CNN that Diamond had stepped down as co-host of the event, scheduled during Romney’s upcoming trip to the Olympic Games.

Consider it among the first, but certainly not the last, reverberations in the U.S.

Last week, the UK-based bank agreed to pay $450 million to settle charges that it had tried to manipulate interbank lending rates. The settlement prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to launch an inquiry into banking practices.

Barclays operates in some 50 countries. Its U.S. operations expanded with the 2008 financial crisis, when it picked up investment banking operations from Lehman Brothers.

Its Washington presence then grew substantially. The table below shows annual lobby expenditures:

Barclays lobbying

Barclays PLC and its U.S. affiliates spent $2.83 million last year on lobbying. The parent company terminated its lobby registration in January, with another related company, Barclays US GPF, registering the following month.

Barclays US reported spending $360,000 in the first quarter of 2012.

Among the bank’s major concerns in Washington are Dodd-Frank and other aspects of financial regulation. It has lobbied the House, Senate, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Treasury Department and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Its main lobbyist is Senior Vice President Patrick Durkin, who is a major fundraiser for Romney. According to Federal Election Commission filings, Durkin has bundled $927,160 for the campaign.

A former director of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Durkin also raised money for John McCain in 2008 and George W. Bush in 2004.

He has been a big personal contributor to Republicans, including $27,000 last year to the Boehner for Speaker committee and $20,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

With Romney’s leadership of Bain Capital now drawing direct criticism from Democrats, we might expect to see the campaign’s connections to Barclays providing new fodder for attack ads.

Concerns about antagonizing potential Obama supporters would no doubt be quieted by the numbers thus far.

According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Barclays employees have contributed $26,800 to Obama in the current election cycle.

In the same time period, people on Barclays payroll have given $204,650 to the Romney campaign.

Yet attacking the Romney campaign for its ties to Barclays might well prompt the GOP to resurrect attacks on Obama’s connections to another financial scandal.

Jon Corzine, former governor of New Jersey and a bundler for Obama, was CEO of MF Global until its bankruptcy last October. A trustee in the bankruptcy last month threatened to file civil charges against Corzine and other top company executives for negligence and breach of duties.

These are treacherous times for both parties.

The bottom line: In the most costly presidential election ever, Democrats and Republicans need the support of the financial sector. While that dependence is likely to mute criticism on the campaign trail, it may well bolster lobbying activities in Washington.

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