Along with protecting their profits, big banks also care deeply about getting revenge against those politicians who cross them.
That’s the message from the primary defeat of Sen. Richard Lugar, the veteran Indiana Republican who has been highly touted as one of the last of a vanishing breed of respectable bipartisan statesman-politicians.
Lugar, 80, was defeated by a tough-talking Tea Partier, Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock, who said his idea of compromise was bashing Democrats until they gave in.
While much of the media has blamed Lugar’s defeat on his willingness to work with Democrats, if you follow the money against Lugar, you’ll find other, familiar forces at work.
This was hardly a grassroots victory against the Washington status quo, unless by grassroots you mean the Financial Roundtable and the American Bankers Association.
As Politico and the Republic Report detailed, the attack on Lugar was funded by the Financial Services Roundtable and the American Bankers Association, along with Wall Street-backed anti-tax, anti-regulatory groups including Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth.
Even though Lugar opposed financial reform, Wall Street is still mad at him because he took the side of giant retailers like Target and Wal-Mart in another epic battle, over debit swipe fees.
The banks suffered a rare defeat in the Senate last year when it rejected a delay in implementing a rule that limited the amount banks could charge you to swipe your debit card, costing the banks about $16 billion. Lugar was one of the few Republicans who sided with the retailers to stand for election this year.
His defeat will no doubt serve as a useful example for legislators considering opposing Wall Street.
On key votes on bread and butter issues, Lugar the bipartisan voted against economic stimulus, and he favored extending unemployment benefits only if the Bush era tax cuts were extended.
I wouldn’t waste any tears for Lugar.
It’s only a matter of time until he lines up a lobbying deal, if he wants one. He can join his former Senate colleague from Indiana, Evan Bayh, a Democrat who was also celebrated as a great bipartisan. After leaving the Senate gnashing his teeth over the increased partisan rancor, Bayh landed a sweet gig lobbying his former colleagues on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce.
If by bipartisan one means always ready to fight for corporate interests, big banks or the titans of retail, then both Lugar and Bayh fit the definition. But Lugar’s defeat is just the latest example of how the media and the Washington insiders persist in wringing their hands over the phony loss of bipartisanship while ignoring the much more compelling reality of corporations that wield way too much power in Washington at our expense.