Anti-Wall Street crusader Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) is slated to give a speech tonight in support of the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris ticket, a political tandem that has benefited from more than $155 million in financial sector cash in the candidates' respective careers.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has benefited from more than $150 million in political contributions from the financial industry since his failed 1988 presidential bid, a Washington Free Beacon review of campaign finance data show. Roughly 40 percent of the money—more than $60 million—has boosted Biden's bid to defeat President Donald Trump.
Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), has also benefited heavily from Wall Street's deep-pocketed donors. The California Democrat has received nearly $3.7 million from the financial sector since her first Senate run in 2016. Biden has far outpaced Trump in contributions from employees of the nation's six largest banks, according to an August Politico report. Biden has received more than $907,000 from JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley employees, compared with Trump's roughly $293,000.
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Neither Sanders nor the Biden campaign returned requests for comment.
A slew of Wall Street titans have voiced support for the Biden-Harris ticket in recent days, including Citigroup vice chairman Ray McGuire. According to the Wall Street Journal, Biden's selection of Harris confirmed the notion among industry executives that stringent financial regulation would not be a "top priority" should Democrats take the White House.
Biden and Harris's cozy relationships with finance executives help explain the industry's support. Employees at credit card issuer MBNA—which merged with Bank of America in 2006—were Biden's largest source of campaign funds as a senator. The company also hired Hunter Biden to consult at the time the elder Biden rallied behind a bankruptcy bill favored by credit card issuers in 2005.
Harris, meanwhile, tapped Jon Henes—a corporate restructuring partner at law firm Kirkland & Ellis—as national finance chair on her presidential campaign. She went on to raise more than $183,000 in direct contributions from the financial sector during her nearly 11-month run, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
More than $6.8 million in financial sector funds have gone directly to Biden's campaign against Trump. The Biden Victory Fund has received roughly $13 million from the industry, as has the Democratic National Committee. A pair of Biden-aligned super PACs, Priorities USA and Unite the Country, have also taken a combined $27.9 million from the financial sector. Sanders once questioned how any candidate who had benefited from Wall Street donations could be trusted to help the American people.
"You need to take on Wall Street, the drug companies, the insurance companies, and the fossil fuel industry. You don't take campaign contributions from them," Sanders said during the 2020 primary.
If you want to make real change and create an economy that works for all, you know what you need?
You need to take on Wall Street, the drug companies, the insurance companies, and the fossil fuel industry.
You don’t take campaign contributions from them.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 16, 2020
Campaign finance watchdogs agreed that the selection of Harris sends mixed messages if a candidate is attempting to woo Sanders supporters.
"The Biden campaign, by picking Kamala, is essentially proving Trump's simplest narrative, which is that these ‘elitists' are out for themselves and not for you," Scott Walter, president of the money-in-politics watchdog Capital Research Center, told the Free Beacon.
As a senator, Biden received more than $8.5 million in direct contributions from the financial industry from 1989 to 2008. He went on to receive more than $710,000 from the industry during his failed presidential bid in 2008, and the Obama-Biden ticket took more than $10.1 million in financial sector cash four years later. A trio of groups aligned with the ticket, including the DNC, Priorities USA, and Obama Victory Fund, took a combined $71.4 million.
Harris has also benefited from financial industry money during her time in the Senate. She received more than $950,000 in direct contributions from the industry during her 2016 campaign to replace then-retiring senator Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.). Harris's congressional campaign also received a combined $2.5 million from the financial sector in the 2018 and 2020 cycles, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Biden's VP announcement praised Harris for taking on the "big banks" as California attorney general. The former prosecutor routinely touts the $20 billion settlement she helped secure from major banks accused of predatory lending practices in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. However, much of the settlement money—nearly $14 billion—went to short sales and second mortgage relief, meaning big banks were able to "reimburse themselves for money they might have lost anyway," according to Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America founder Bruce Marks.
The Democratic National Convention will begin at 9 p.m. Monday. Sanders is scheduled to speak during the 10 p.m. hour.