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Big banks pour money into House Ag Committee coffers

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Photo - Traders on the New York Stock Exchange floor. (thetaxhaven.com/Flickr)
Traders on the New York Stock Exchange floor. (thetaxhaven.com/Flickr)
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Big banks are major donors to members of the House Agriculture Committee that recently passed a series of bills to roll back regulations on financial derivatives, according to an analysis by a nonpartisan organization that tracks money in politics.

The top four commercial banks that account for about 93.2 percent of the derivative contracts held for trading have through their political action committees contributed $313,000 to members of the Agriculture Committee since 2009, according to MapLight, a nonprofit group that investigates financial influence on Congress.

The banks are Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, which combined gave a total of more than $4.9 million to members of Congress through their PACs in the past four years, according to MapLight.

On March 20, the Agriculture Committee passed seven bills that, according to MapLight, would loosen regulations on derivatives passed three years ago in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. All of the bills were approved with lopsided bipartisan support.

But the measures are not aimed at helping the big banks, according to Tamara Hinton, a committee spokeswoman. Rather, they would fix unintended language in the original Dodd-Frank bill that treated farmers and ranchers the same as investment banks, she said.

So for instance, one of the bills eliminates the requirement that end-users of the money, such as farmers, would have meet the same margin requirements as banks.

"Without these important changes, regulations could deter businesses from hedging against risk, which is contrary to the purpose of financial regulatory reform," committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said after the bills were passed.

Lucas received $39,500 from the four banks that dominate derivatives markets, according to MapLight. The committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., got $5,500.

The top committee members receiving money from the four banks were Reps. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, and David Scott, D-Ga. Neugebauer received a total of $52,000 from the bank PACs, while Scott got $41,500, according to MapLight, which includes political contributions through March 2013.

The biggest recipient in Congress who is not on the Agriculture Committee is Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who received $83,250 from the four banks since 2009, according to MapLight. Among Democrats, the top recipient was Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., who received $76,000 in donations over the past four years.

The full Maplight report can be read here. - Mark Flatten

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