If Senator Cory Gardner wants to win his tough re-election fight next year, there’s really no constituency he can ignore–which helps explain why he’s all over the map on so many issues. But over a decade in Congress, and especially since entering the Senate, Gardner has allied himself closely with the one sector of society that everyone loves to hate–Wall Street.
Depending on where the current market roller coaster heads in the next year, and predictions vary widely as of this writing, that could be a serious liability for Gardner much like the 2008 financial crisis meant doom for Republicans at the polls.
Ahead of 2020, Gardner has already raised almost $1 million from the finance, insurance, and real estate industries, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. And that’s consistent with history: in his 2014 Senate bid, Gardner raised over $800,000 from Wall Street, and has kept the money rolling in steadily ever since.
All of that campaign cash doesn’t come for free of course! National watchdog group Americans for Financial Reform laid out in a recent report that Wall Street pursued an aggressive deregulatory agenda in the 2017-2018 Congress, for which they spent almost $2 billion on congressional persuasion:
In the 2017–18 election cycle, Wall Street banks and financial interests reported spending almost $2 billion to influence decision-making in Washington. That total – of officially reported expenditures on campaign contributions and lobbying – works out to more than $2.5 million per day. A total of 443 financial sector companies and trade associations spent at least $500,000 each during this period.
Since 2008, financial industry spending has increased to levels even higher than they were before the financial crisis, and the spending in this cycle was the highest yet for a non-presidential year. This continued high level of spending reflects the ongoing battle to reshape the financial system and the industry’s persistent efforts to repeal or win exemptions from parts of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, to weaken implementing regulations, to further deregulate, and to forestall proposals for accountability and change.
Americans for Financial Reform identified 15 key Wall Street-related votes that made it to the Senate floor in the 2016-2018 Congress. Gardner voted yes on 14 of them, and was a no-vote on the other. Gardner voted to install ally of payday lenders Kathy Kraninger as their top regulator, to change around rules that allowed the merger which might create the country’s newest “Too Big To Fail” bank, and to give the banks a massive tax break at the expense of a surging deficit.
Think about that for a moment. The same dishonest bankers who crashed the economy in 2008 spent an average of $2.5 million per day trying to get Congress to roll back oversight and give them taxpayer-funded handouts. And Cory Gardner helped them at every step. If that’s not a hard-hitting political attack ad, we’d have trouble finding one.
Toxic coziness with Wall Street isn’t a new problem for Gardner, and like all such issues where his duties to constituents conflict with his political benefactors, Gardner is hoping this will go underreported back here in Colorado. The problem is there are real consequences for Colorado voters who carry the risk while Wall Street reaps the rewards. While we can’t imagine anyone would want to repeat the financial crisis of 2008 or the Great Recession that followed, that’s what dismantling consumer financial protections and post-recession banking reforms would lead to.
Gardner is ready to make all the same mistakes again.