President Barack Obama doesn’t plan at this time to give back almost $1 million in campaign contributions from employees of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
“We make these decisions on a case-by-case basis, and in this case we have not accepted contributions from specific individuals accused of wrongdoing, nor have we advocated for positions that big Wall Street banks generally favor,” Hari Sevugan, a Democratic National Committee spokesman, said in a statement.
Obama, 48, received the contributions in 2007 and 2008 for his White House bid.
Donations from the bank’s employees have become an issue for political candidates from both parties after the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a fraud lawsuit April 16 against Goldman Sachs.
Obama was asked about the contributions in an interview yesterday with CNBC.
“I got a lot of money from a lot of people,” he said. “And the vast majority of the money I got was from small donors all across the country.”
Obama said his desire to change Wall Street rules was clear throughout the campaign.
“Anybody who gave me money during the course of my campaign knew that I was on record, again in 2007 and 2008, pushing very strongly that we needed to reform how Wall Street did business,” he said.
Biggest Money Sources
Obama received the money from employees and their family members, making Goldman Sachs second only to the University of California as his biggest source for donors in 2007 and 2008, according to the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics.
In the president’s adopted home state of Illinois, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat Obama once held has said he will return about $21,000 from Goldman Sachs employees.
Mark Kirk, a five-term congressman from Chicago’s northern suburbs, said he wanted to “err on the side of caution” as the SEC case unfolded and would return the money.
Kirk announced the decision after his Democratic opponent, Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, called on him to give back the contributions.
Obama and Democrats in Congress are proposing the most sweeping changes to financial regulation since the Great Depression and the president plans to deliver a speech on the subject today at the Cooper Union in New York.
Kirk ranks sixth so far among House and Senate candidates for donations from Goldman employees during the 2010 election cycle, the center’s data shows. The top five are Democratic Congressman Michael McMahon of New York, Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, and three other New York Democrats: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Representative Scott Murphy and Senator Charles Schumer.
Goldman Sachs and its employees and family members gave $5.9 million to candidates in the 2007-2008 election cycle, the Center for Responsive Politics data shows. Three-quarters of that went to Democrats, the non-partisan group said.
The SEC filed a civil suit alleging Goldman failed to tell investors in a 2007 collateralized debt obligation that hedge fund Paulson & Co., which planned to bet against the CDO, helped select the underlying assets. The bank has denied the SEC’s accusations.
For Obama, Wall Street provided three of his seven biggest sources of contributors for the 2008 presidential campaign. In 2007 and 2008, Goldman Sachs employees and family members gave him $994,795, Citigroup Inc. $701,290, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. $695,132.
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