The American Bankers Association, a trade group for thousands of banks headed by former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, voted to start a legal entity for this federal campaign cycle, adding millions of dollars into an already overstuffed election.
The ABA entity would reportedly donate to existing Super PACs, so that the member banks can keep their donations secret.
The contributions from member banks into this fund could total at least $6 million, if not more. Bloomberg reports that much of this money will be used on 6-12 contested US Senate races. But according to Lee Fang, “Keating has been featured as a financial services policy advisor” to the Romney-Ryan campaign at various fundraisers throughout the year. So it appears likely that at least some of this bank money will get funneled into SuperPACs supporting the Republicans on the Presidential ticket. Banks have turned away from funding Obama, as they did in 2008, and moved the majority of their money toward Romney, probably because of feeling slighted by random comments rather than because of any actual policy differences. Fang adds:
This new ABA secret money effort represents a major shift for the group that is only possible because of the Citizens United decision. Before the Supreme Court moved to allow unlimited corporate spending in the election, trade associations like the ABA could only participate in federal elections by creating transparent political action committees that could only accept limited, individual donations.
Now, the sky is the limit. ABA’s embrace of the 501c loophole allows them to make of their electioneering efforts completely secret.
While the bulk of the ABA membership consists of community and regional banks, executives from Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase sit on the board of the trade group and voted to create the entity that will donate to SuperPACs. Those banks, along with ABA, have been at the forefront of efforts to roll back the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
Meanwhile, an appeals court stopped Minnesota from enforcing a law that requires disclosure of corporate political spending, meaning that even disclosure is unlikely to survive the judicial gauntlet, even though the Supreme Court touted disclosure as a remedy for runaway campaign finance in its Citizens United decision. The destruction of the modern campaign finance system is almost complete.