By Alexander Bolton - 12/04/11 10:00 PM EST
Jon Corzine, former CEO of MF Global, has given tens of thousands of dollars to the Democratic Party in recent months, putting Democratic lawmakers in awkward positions ahead of Corzine’s subpoenaed appearance before a House committee next week.
The House Agriculture Committee wants Corzine to explain the financial collapse of MF Global and what may have happened to clients’ investments.
A former U.S. senator from New Jersey and governor of that state, Corzine is a longtime leader of the Democratic Party who served as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2004.
Corzine gave $15,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Sept. 28 and $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee in June.
While he has contributed to Democrats such as Reps. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and George Miller (D-Calif.), Corzine has become a political liability to his former allies on the Hill.
House Republicans are accusing Democrats of hypocrisy for not returning contributions from Corzine, whose brokerage firm may have lost more than $1 billion of clients’ money through improper transactions.
Republicans will put him in the spotlight Thursday. The House Agriculture Committee has subpoenaed Corzine to testify before the committee at a hearing scheduled Dec. 8.
“His testimony is essential to fulfill our objectives of our constituents,” said Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.).
The National Republican Congressional Committee has seized on the opportunity.
“Even as Democrats align themselves with the Occupy Movement, those same Democrats have amassed millions in financial contributions from Wall Street,” the GOP committee wrote in a press release last month.
“The fact that ‘Obama’s guy on Wall Street’ now faces possible criminal charges for the very behavior Democrats pretend to condemn exposes the Democrats’ hypocrisy.”
The NRCC has called on Democrats to return the money.
In recent years, Corzine has contributed over $1.8 million to the Democratic National Committee and $130,000 to the DCCC.
A DCCC spokesman did not return a request for comment Friday afternoon.
The recipients of Corzine’s campaign contributions include Holt, Pallone, Miller, and Reps. Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Steve Rothman (D-N.J.).
None of those lawmakers sit on the Agriculture Committee.
Corzine has avoided the press since the collapse of MF Global and his attorney initially told the panel that he would be unable to attend the Dec. 8 hearing.
Republicans will attempt to turn Corzine into the poster boy of what they claim is Democrats’ cozy relationship with Wall Street.
Democrats believe that growing public anger directed at Wall Street and income inequality will help them in next year’s election.
“The number one issue is jobs, the economy and the shrinking income of the middle class particularly when compared to the fact that the highest income people are doing very well,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate Democratic chief political strategist told The Hill this week.
“We have the higher ground on jobs, economy and middle income’s decline,” he added.
Data compiled by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics shows that Democrats have collected $197 million from the securities and investment industry since 2006.
Corzine has also bundled hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions for President Obama. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has called on Obama’s campaign to return the $500,000 Corzine collected on its behalf.
The New York Times reported in October that at least 15 of Obama’s bundlers worked for Washington consulting firms and have raised more than $5 million for his campaign.
Obama’s campaign makes the point that the president has done more than most politicians by eschewing contributions from political action committees and registered lobbyists.
It’s unclear whether Corzine will answer questions before lawmakers under oath because he could face criminal charges if investigators discover he improperly drew from customer’s accounts.
Some aides speculate he could invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating himself as did Kenneth Lay, the former chairman of Enron, and other business leaders who became ensnared in past scandals.
Democrats seized on the collapse of Enron nearly ten years ago to wage a political offensive against the GOP. Republicans see a similar opportunity now.
Reuters wrote in an analysis Friday that MF Global is the new poster child of the “off-balance-sheet accounting methods that Enron and Lehman Brothers made famous.”
This article has been corrected to reflect that Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has never received a campaign contribution from Corzine.