Wall St. spent $5 billion on politics between 1998 and 2008

The financial industry spent a collective $5 billion dollars on its political efforts over the past 10 years, a new report by a corporate watchdog group alleges.

Investment firms, commercial banks, hedge funds, real estate companies, and insurance companies spent $1.725 billion on political contributions between 1998 and 2008, and an additional $3.4 billion on lobbyists during the same time period, according to a report released Wednesday by Essential Information and the Consumer Education Foundation.

The report found that Democrats and Republicans split corporate donations almost evenly, with Republicans taking 55 percent of the donations between 1998 and 2008, and Democrats taking 45 percent. Democrats took just over half of the donations in the 2008 cycle.

The organizations are a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy groups which push for stronger consumer protection laws and to curb "excessive corporate power."

The report alleges that excessive deregulation of the financial sector combined with undue influence from the billions spent in lobbying and political contributions resulted in the current financial crisis.

"Congress and the Executive Branch...responded to the legal bribes from the financial sector, rolling back common-sense standards, barring honest regulators from issuing rules to address emerging problems and trashing enforcement efforts," said Essential Information's Robert Weissman, the lead author of the report. "The progressive erosion of regulatory restraining walls led to a flood of bad loans, and a tsunami of bad bets based on those bad loans. Now, there is wreckage across the financial landscape."

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