HELENA — Montana Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, along with colleagues on the Senate Banking Committee, spent Wednesday morning grilling JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon over a $2 billion trading loss announced in May.
Tester’s “time to shine,” as MSNBC dubbed it, was tainted with his close ties to Chase and its workers.
The Montana Republican Party highlighted the most obvious connection in a news release Tuesday, pointing to Chase’s status as one of Tester’s top contributors.
OpenSecrets.org, an online campaign finance database operated by the Center for Responsive Politics, pegs JPMorgan Chase, combined with its workers, as the fourth-highest donor to Tester’s re-election war chest.
A Chase-backed PAC has contributed $10,000 to the Democratic senator, and the bank’s employees have pitched in another $35,000, for a collective $45,000.
Only the environmental group League of Conservation Voters, credit card giant VISA and the Massachusetts injury attorney firm Thornton and Naumes spent more to bolster Tester’s re-election account.
Another, less obvious tie is through a former Tester staffer working on Chase’s behalf in the Capitol halls.
Jason Rosenburg worked as a legislative assistant and than a senior economic policy adviser to Tester from 2007 until 2010. The Washington Examiner notes today that Rosenburg worked with the Democratic senator on the same committee that grilled Dimon.
After leaving Tester’s office, Rosenburg took a vice president job with The Glover Park Group, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm. The Glover Park Group boasts a number of formidable clients, including JPMorgan Chase.
OpenSecrets.org reveals Chase paid Glover Park $130,000 for lobbying services in 2011.
Yet, the close relationship with Chase didn’t stop Tester from delivering his tough questions, full of red meat upon which Montana voters can feast, to Dimon during the hearing.
Tester prodded Dimon on his bank’s role in the collapse of MF Global, a leading financial derivatives broker until its bankruptcy in October 2011.
The Democratic senator asked why Chase waited seven months, until May, to return $168 million in MF Global funds to the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy process.
“If it was their dough, it should have been returned to them,” Tester told Dimon.
The bank executive said his company followed court direction in returning the money.
About 100 Montana ranchers and farmers, or “my folks,” as Tester affectionately named them, lost money in the MF Global collapse, although he noted they’ve returned about 72 cents on each dollar invested.
Dustin Hurst is a reporter with Watchdog.org.