Dem Campaigns Paid SEIU-Owned Bank $2.2 Million in Fees, Interest This Cycle

Labor union spent millions of dollars backing liberal campaigns in 2018

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November 29, 2018

A bank owned by the SEIU labor union earned over $2 million during the midterm election cycle through bank fees and interest payments from Democratic campaigns and committees, Federal Election Commission filings show.

Amalgamated Bank continued to grow its political operation during the cycle, with clients ranging from new candidates such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and Jon Ossoff in Georgia to political veterans such as Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts. Amalgamated was the bank used by both the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which spent $146.8 million and $117.2 million, respectively, this cycle. It was also the bank for super PACs such as the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund and American Bridge 21st Century, which both spent about $20 million working to elect Democrats.

All together, Amalgamated Bank was paid $2,188,765.63 by Democratic campaigns and election groups. Most of the money earned comes from simple bank fees, which are frequent due to the highly transactional nature of campaign finance, but a sizable portion also comes from interest payments. Both the DNC and the DSCC took out large loans, which remain largely unpaid.

The DNC has $2.5 million worth of outstanding loans with Amalgamated, a smaller sum than the DSCC, which took out a $20 million loan from Amalgamated in August and is still paying off a nearly $5 million loan it took out in 2015.

The massive midterm election client list continues a trend for Amalgamated, which only started to cater to political clients in 2012 but has since made it a focus.

Keith Mestrich, brought on in 2012 to direct the bank's operations in Washington, D.C., is now Amalgamated's president and CEO.

Mestrich now sits on the board of directors for the Democracy Alliance, a group of millionaire and billionaire donors who pledge to support a wide array of liberal groups with their money. He attended the Democracy Alliance's most recent meeting earlier this month in D.C., where he and other bank officials mingled with donors and operatives from liberal groups.

Amalgamated has made itself an attractive banking choice for Democratic campaigns by both bringing on former campaign officials with knowledge of political operations and their specific financial needs, and by pledging to be a political ally.

On its website, it advertises that 100 percent of its giving goes to Democratic candidates.

"Our political banking team is made up of former campaign leaders and banking experts who know what it means to be part of a political family and, like you, are 100 percent committed to moving America forward," writes Molly Culhane, a former finance official for President Barack Obama's reelection campaign who is now a senior vice president at Amalgamated.

Amalgamated's PAC did indeed give all of its contributions to Democratic candidates, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Nearly all the recipients of the PAC's contributions, such as representatives Seth Moulton (Mass.) and Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), are clients of the bank.

The larger spending, however, comes from the SEIU, which owns Amalgamated Bank. The labor giant made nearly $18 million in contributions to liberal candidates and groups during the midterm election cycle.

Amalgamated Bank did not provide answers to questions regarding its political work by press time.