Since his election to Congress in 2014, Rep. Tom Emmer (MN-06) has rarely missed a chance to do Wall Street’s bidding. On the House Financial Services Committee, Emmer is part of a bloc of Republican lawmakers known for raking in huge sums of money from big banks and financial companies – and for churning out legislation to make it easier for those companies to gamble with taxpayer-backed funds, stick customers with hidden fees and “gotcha” clauses, and enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us.
Financial companies and their executives have been massive funders of Rep. Emmer’s political career. In all, he has taken over $1 million from individuals and PACs associated with banks, payday lenders, and other financial and real estate interests – more than from any other sector of the economy.
Rep. Emmer’s top corporate benefactors since 2013 include the Credit Union National Association ($30,000), the American Bankers Association ($29,500), King Capital ($29,050), the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors ($24,000), and Deloitte LLP ($22,100).
During the current election cycle, he has collected contributions from NASDAQ Inc. ($15,500), UBS ($15,250), Deloitte LLP ($15,250), Promontory Interfinancial Network ($15,000), the American Bankers Association ($15,000), Berkshire Hathaway ($15,000), the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers ($15,000), the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America ($13,500), KPMG ($13,000), PricewaterhouseCoopers ($12,500), the American Institute of CPAs ($12,000), the Mortgage Bankers Association ($11,500), Goldman Sachs ($11,000), LPL Investment Holdings ($10,000), Rockwood Capital ($10,000), Capital One Financial ($10,000), the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts ($10,000), New York Life Insurance ($10,000), the Credit Union National Association ($10,000), Wells Fargo ($9,000), US Bancorp ($7,700), the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors ($7,500), the Independent Community Bankers of America ($7,500), Prudential Financial ($7,500), Western National Insurance ($7,279), Ernst & Young ($7,000), the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies ($7,000), SunTrust Banks ($7,000), Bank of America ($6,500), Allianz ($6,500), AEGON NV ($6,000), Morgan Stanley ($6,000), the Investment Company Institute ($6,000), Thrivent Financial ($6,000), the American Financial Services Association ($6,000),and many others.
In 2017 and 2018, Americans for Financial Reform (a coalition of more than 200 consumer and other public-interest groups) tracked 38 House floor votes and 36 Financial Services Committee votes – 74 votes altogether – on measures making it easier for Wall Street banks and other financial companies to make reckless bets or take unfair advantage of consumers, investors, or workers, or endanger the safety and stability of the overall financial system and the economy. Rep. Tom Emmer voted for all 74, including proposals to:
● Sharply reduce the funding, powers, and political independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, making it easier for mortgage lenders, payday lenders, and credit card companies, etc. to stick customers with hidden fees and unexpected charges (HR 10, voted for);
● Roll back consumer credit safeguards for mobile (or manufactured) homes, making it easier to steer borrowers into high-cost loans with excessive fees and interest – in an industry that has long been rife with such abuses (HR 1699, voted for);
● Weaken oversight of the Big 3 credit ratings agencies, Moody’s, Standard & Poors, and Fitch, which made huge sums of money by slapping triple-A ratings on toxic mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the financial crisis (HR 3911, voted for);
● Give Wall Street banks and other large financial companies a new way to undo rules they dislike, by requiring the explicit approval of both houses of Congress before any major regulation takes effect (HR 26, voted for); and
● Strip consumers of the right to band together and take banks and other financial companies to court over systematic wrongdoing, leaving people with no recourse except to submit an individual complaint to a corporate-friendly private arbitration firm. This is a system that effectively operates as a corporate Get out of Jail Free Card, since the damage to any one victim of financial industry fraud and trickery is rarely large enough to justify the cost of legal action, and arbitration proceedings are usually kept under wraps. (HJ Resolution 111, voted for)
Tom Emmer also voted for the Republican tax-cut plan (HR 1), from which big banks and financial companies – and their executives – stand to gain hundreds of billions of dollars, with the scandal-ridden Wells Fargo poised to be the leading corporate beneficiary.
And in May 2018, his support helped win passage of the biggest rollback of banking regulations since the financial crisis. Backers of this legislation (S 2155) described it as an effort to provide regulatory relief for small “community banks”; but that’s a well-honed Wall Street marketing pitch for bills whose chief beneficiaries, as a rule, are much larger and less sympathetic institutions. In fact, the core provision of S 2155 freed a group of 25 banks with $50-$250 billion in assets from the heightened oversight put in place after the 2008-09 financial crisis. Far from protecting community banks, S 2155 will spur increased bank consolidation by letting a $50 billion institution grow up to five times bigger without attracting any extra regulatory scrutiny – a point acknowledged by industry insiders as soon as the bill passed. Its other unadvertised features included a significant weakening of safeguards against predatory or racially discriminatory lending, especially in rural areas of the country. Senator Elizabeth Warren dubbed it The “Bank Lobbyist Act.”
All these votes occurred during the 115th Congress, which has done next to nothing about the serious problems facing ordinary Americans (health care, housing, etc.). If you’re wondering how the same elected body could somehow manage to act on item after item from Wall Street’s legislative wish list, the answer lies with Tom Emmer and the far too many other lawmakers like him who have built their congressional lives around the pursuit of campaign donations from big banks, securities firms, payday lenders, and other giant financial companies.
When it comes to the issues that
Wall Street banks and other financial firms care about, Emmer
has ignored not only the interests but the will of the people he is sworn to
represent. Ten years after the financial crisis, the great majority of voters –
across lines of geography and political party – voice their support for
existing regulations and say they would like to see the rules governing Wall
Street and the financial world made tougher. Yet in all the actions described
here, Rep. Emmer has not once taken a stand for
stronger rather than weaker regulation of banks, lenders, and other financial
 On 9/19/18, OpenSecrets.org showed Rep. Emmer with a total of $1,181,773 in FIRE sector contributions, based on data reported to the Federal Elections Commission and compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Like other dollar amounts cited here, this number can be updated by clicking the link to CRP’s website.