Occupy the SEC’s New Online Tool Shows How “New Democrats” Sell Out Their Constituents to the Banksters

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Occupy the SEC (OSEC) has released “RepRank,” an online tool that ranks House members by how they voted on finance bills, and plots their ranking against their contributions from the finance industry. They then go on to offer an interpretation of their data. First, I’ll summarize their methodology; then I’ll present their interpretation; and then I’ll give a worked example of their hypothesis to see if it proves out. Spoiler alert: It does.

Here’s OSEC’s methodology, which is indeed refreshingly simple:

Our methodology was rather straightforward. We created a simple formula that allowed us to produce a score between 0 and 100 for each member of the House. A score of 100 means that a member voted in a manner that was consistent with our positions on every bill. Conversely, a score of 0 means that the member took the opposite view of OSEC on all considered bills.

Additionally, we gave some weight to the sponsorship and cosponsorship of bills…. Co-sponsorship of bills was treated in a similar fashion but the weight we applied was smaller. Lastly, we added a multiplier to each bill that reflected the importance of the bill and its potential impact. For instance, if the bill was just a minor “technical fix” then it received a small multiplier, but if the bill was aimed at, say rehauling an entire agency (as HR 3193 aims to do by changing the makeup of the CFPB), then we viewed votes on that bill as being more significant, and consequently applied a larger multiplier to it.

(The end product is a lot like the “scorecards” you find at places like FreedomWorks.) So here are the top four members as ranked by OSEC:

Figure 1: Four Top-Ranking Democrats

osec_yes.

On the site, you can click on each member’s name to see their record, and you can click on each HR to see a summary of the bill and OSEC’s recommendation. For example, H.R. 992, the “Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act,” drafted by Citi, which Clarke, Nadler, Grayson, and Chu all voted against:

This bill continues to concentrate and centralize risk in financial institutions by allowing them to engage in more derivatives activities and still be eligible for government bailouts. Additionally, this concentration of risk will reduce balance sheet transparency and increase the difficulty for regulators in trying to identify and prevent risk concentrations before they pose a systemic risk.

Obviously, that’s a bad bill, and therefore the House passed it. However, H.R. 992 also had bi-partisan support. Here is a table that shows the Democratic co-sponsors, and their rankings:

Figure 2: Democratic Co-sponsors of H.R. 992

Representative Ranking
Himes 28.5
Maloney 30.7
Scott 41.6
Schneider 23.0

These are, of course, by no means the worst Democrats. Here are the four worst:

Figure 3: Four Lowest Ranking Democrats

Representative Ranking
Cuellar 8.3
Barrow 8.3
Schrader 16.6
Rahall 16.6

Here is OSEC’s commentary based on that data:

After we produced the rankings we went a step further and tried to make more sense out of voting records by looking at where members received their political contributions. In particular, what interested us was how much of an individual member’s political contributions came from sources in the financial services industry. It’s no secret that Representatives who receive heavy support from the financial industry typically vote in that industry’s favor. Our analysis tracks this phenomenon.

The graph below maps each member’s score against the percentage of the member’s contributions that came from the financial industry. One thing you can see is that the individuals who scored the worst received the largest fraction of their political contributions from the financial services industry. (For instance, Rep. Scott Garrett Rep. Scott Garrett received about 70 percent of his contributions from the industry and received the worst score possible). Conversely, those who had the better scores received minor contributions from the industry.

One thing we see pretty clearly in the middle is that Democrats who claim to be “New Democrats” score poorly compared to their party peers, and also tend to receive a higher fraction of their political contributions from the industry. This trend was not surprising and helps to account for the fact that the scores for Democrats have a higher spread relative to their Republican counterparts, who tend to vote in lock-step with each other. The spread in scores for Democrats suggests, as many people already recognize, that accurately gauging where Democrats stand on issues is a more difficult task.

To test that commentary, I mapped out our Top Four Democrats (red), Bottom Four Democrats (yellow), and the Democrats who were Co-Sponsors of H.R. 992 (green, for reasons that will become obvious in a moment):

Figure 4: Spread in Democratic Scores

voting_pattern

Notice that the Democratic co-sponsors of HR 992 — again, a really bad bill, drafted by Citi; Mother Jones has a handy chart of the changes — find the Judas Goat role of sponsorship — green, “in the middle” — quite profitable; more profitable, in fact, than simply being lackeys for the banks, like the four bottom Democrats.

Of course, the Judas Goats are all “New Democrats.” How cozy. I’m not sure, however, how “new” this behavior really is.

So I would say that OSEC’s commentary has merit. Plus RepRank is a keen tool.

NOTE Geek kudos for the SVG format:

svg

In FireFox, I could actually use Firebug to search for the names of representatives on the chart — though unfortunately, the location is a little rough. Where the screen is really dense with data, and hard for FireBug to render, the locations are approximate.

Addendum

Of course, the contributions that the banksters give the Congress critters are quite trivial set against the returns. When issues like this crop up, I’m always reminded of the following parable, introduced by Ian Welsh:

I believe that any corporation large enough to buy politicians which isn’t doing so is clearly failing in its fiduciary duty.

But it’s the cheapness which used to puzzle me.  No more though.  My friend Eli pointed out what should have been obvious to me.

(They sell out cheap) because it’s not their money.  It’s like selling your neighbor’s car for twenty bucks.

America’s politicians: cheap and crooked.

Not all of them, as Clarke, Nadler, Grayson, and Chu show. But… sigh.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

50 comments

  1. hunkerdown

    Firebug? Oh Lambert, you’re too clever by half. Plain old page search works better if you know the name: hit Ctrl+F on the about/graph page, start typing and they come right up, in just the right place, right on the graph. (Firefox 32.0.2)

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I tried that, but when the names were really clustered, as it were, I couldn’t be sure I’d seen the right one. With Firebug, I could see the source code.

  2. trish

    “gauging where Democrats stand on issues is a more difficult task” This provides them good camouflage. Very smart of the financial industry. These New Democrats champion themselves as moderates, just trying to find middle ground (and “pro-growth!), trying to work together to end that evil bipartisan gridlock, etc
    The MSM adores all that. As if gridlock, partisanship were the biggest evils in Washington, not corruption and corporate capture.

    “They sell out cheap” Yeah, it’s not their money, so cheap while in congress…but there may be a golden ticket to wall street position awaiting them or their spouses or progeny after they leave.

    1. sufferin' succotash

      Isn’t that a bit unfair to goats? Why not simply Thirty Pieces Of Silver Democrats?

      1. ambrit

        Thirty Pieces of Silver reeks of the Exchange; too econo-centric. Judas Goat though, that evokes images of Blood Sacrifice and Moral Rectitude. Are all of our sins really leaving the polis along with those “Goats?” “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way.” Somehow, I don’t see those sacrificial democrats as leading us to any sort of salvation; just the opposite.

        1. ex-PFC Chuck

          Per Wikipedia:

          The Judas goat is trained to associate with sheep or cattle, leading them to a specific destination. In stockyards, a Judas goat will lead sheep to slaughter, while its own life is spared.

        2. ambrit

          I was thinking of the goat that was annually invested with all the sins of the community and then expelled from that community, signifying the ritual cleansing of the community of its sins from the prior year; the Scapegoat. That meshes with the ‘real’ Judas Goat, the goat that was sacrificed to God during the same Festival of Atonement. That the later Judas Goat evolved out of the former Sacramental Goat I strongly suspect.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scapegoat
          I’m not as conversant with other cultures religious customs as I should be I’ll admit. However, we do live in a West whose culture derives strongly from the Middle Eastern and more specifically Semitic cultural streams. To observe that the practices of sacrifice and atonement are universally human is my main defense.
          It’s all a work in progress.

          1. Glenn Condell

            ‘This figure that was sacrificed was the deity who saved the community from destruction. Since the pattern started with the cessation of violence by the original human sacrifice, the continuation of that pattern is understandable. But as culture progressed, and specifically with the introduction of the Jewish religion into the world’s culture, symbols–animal sacrifices and sacred rituals–were used in place of human sacrifices. Thus Girard claims the origin of religion is rooted in violence’

            http://www.jeramyt.org/papers/girard.html

  3. Carla

    Lambert, thank you for this terrific post. Unfortunately, I fear any of my friends who are still Democrats (and sadly, there are quite a few) are such True Believers that they will deny the existence of “Judas Goat Democrats” until the cows come home.

    It’s good to know about Clarke, Nadler, Grayson, and Chu. Let’s see, 4 out of 435.

    And I’m having trouble convincing NE Ohio Dems to vote Green in the Ohio Governor’s race rather than wasting their votes on dead letter Ed FitzGerald. Oy.

    1. trish

      on the chart ie bill 992, Clarke NA rather than N (no vote)…can someone answer a perhaps stupid question- what does NA mean- not present I’m thinking. He’s got a string of these.

      1. Judy

        Clarke was elected in 2014 and therefore has an incomplete voting record indicated by the asterisk at the end of the row.

    2. McMike

      Are there any true Democrats left? I mean, that actually believe in liberal stuff and support politicians who pursue that liberal stuff, and feel like they are in a two-way relationship therein, with effective and dedicated politicos who are on the same team with them pushing that agenda forward?

      Most Dems I know, when asked turn out to be essentially anti-Republicans, justifying themselves using language of defensive/hold the line, and lesser of two evils strategy. Its passive and defeatist and resigned, but likes to think of itself as pragmatic, and glorifies itself as the only thing standing between between the a semblance of democracy and total darkness of GOP Kristallnacht.

      I am talking about self-described ideological Dems here. There are of course a lot muddled middle centristish soccer moms and dads – they are susceptible to the tolerant social liberalishness of the Dems, and also to the packaged economic quasi libertarian corporate welfare gibberish of the GOP, and above all just want to be protected from whatever they are told to be scared of – but in the end they choose their party each election the same way they select a TV dinner in the frozen food aisle, deciding each year whether they prefer Salsbury “steak” or the mushed potatoes based on the packaging, shelf placement, and price.

      1. hunkerdown

        All sorts of just-so stories, appeals to tradition, belief in the absolute sufficiency of salesmanship and marketing savvy as a political system (Joachimism), selective memory, selective awareness, a firm belief in the system whose very deficiencies enable their self-importance (Shirky Principle), a desire to keep struggling instead of winning for keeps (Augustinism), and, yes, good old scapegoating.

        No, that’s all they got.

      2. hunkerdown

        In other words, they roll like a religious movement more than a political action group, to the point where one even tried to accuse me of being caught in a cult or some such nonsense just for demanding they show some results.

    3. Brooklin Bridge

      Unfortunately, I fear any of my friends who are still Democrats (and sadly, there are quite a few) are such True Believers that they will deny the existence of “Judas Goat Democrats” until the cows come home.

      As an unusually perceptive regular on NC point out to me recently, Then we have to tell the average person [Democrats in this case?], in a way he or she can hear [understand] it. Else why do we read Naked Capitalism every day? :-)

      It’s an excellent goal, but not always practical. When commenters report on a/the difficulty people have with coming to grips with what is happening, and many do, such reports can simply be factual information or qualified opinion; but that doesn’t automatically mean they are not trying.

    4. trinity river

      Carla, I was disappointed in some of Kaptur’s votes even tho she had only one financial company listed as a contributor? What’s up?

    1. McMike

      I once read a great quote, either by PJ O’Rourke or maybe Hunter S, that basically said politicians are the kids you hated in high school.

      Have been unable to find it again ever since.

      But there’s this…

      1. cnchal

        Thanks for the link. I particularly like this passage.

        If the right people had been in charge of Nixon’s funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.

        These are harsh words for a man only recently canonized by President Clinton and my old friend George McGovern — but I have written worse things about Nixon, many times, and the record will show that I kicked him repeatedly long before he went down. I beat him like a mad dog with mange every time I got a chance, and I am proud of it. He was scum.

  4. lyman alpha blob

    Clarke is a she. I suspect the NA is there because she joined Congress in a special election and wasn’t around for all the votes in question. When Kerry was appointed SecState, Ed Markey won a special election to take Kerry’s senate seat and Clarke won the special election to take Markey’s house seat.

    I will forward this post to her – she will likely get a kick out of it. She has mentioned that her opponents in Mass. keep trying to label her a socialist and every time they do, her favorability ratings go up !

    1. trish

      OK, duh…should have realized. so yes, she should enjoy this and hopefully she’ll continue standing up to the industry.

  5. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thank you for this post, Lambert, and to those at the OSEC who did this important work. I sensed this intuitively because of the lack of meaningful legislation and regulatory oversight to address the issues that led to the collapse of the financial system in autumn 2008, but it is helpful to see some data and graphics to support one’s view.

  6. Vatch

    As one who frequently complains that the Democrats are almost indistinguishable from the Republicans on financial issues, I am surprised that it is so clear from this chart that the Democrats are much better than the Republicans. The Democrats seem to converge around the 40% to 70% score, whereas the Republicans are almost all in the dismal 8% to 9% range. I still think that people should vote Third Party when such a candidate is available, but if there isn’t, then in almost all cases, people should vote for the Democratic candidate for national office.

    1. ex-PFC Chuck

      I suspect that if they accept DCCC money they get leaned on pretty heavily to vote as the leadership suggests. I’ve read elsewhere (brief search hasn’t found a reference) that back when the Dems controlled the House and a vote came up on a bill that was more than noxious than usually was the case to the useful idiots in the base who reflexively vote Dem based on distant memories of what the party once stood for, Pelosi & Co. carefully scatter around enough assignments to vote with the GOP to just barely push the measure over the top. Next time around different Dem congress critters would get the order to hold his or her nose and vote Yea. This might explain why so many Democrats cluster in the middle of the rating range.

      1. hunkerdown

        The face-heel turn, as they call it in pro wrestling. I hope you do find that article; even the “Democrats stand for nothing but Not That Tribe, and that’s good” people will have some uncomfortable ‘splaining to do.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s policy outcomes of the entire system that matter. Remember that in both 2006 and 2009, the Democrats picked the Republicans off the ground, dusted them off, and let them right back in the game.

    3. Code Name D

      Actually, it’s far worse that that. It’s not about how much money they take from the DCCC, but how much money they raise from corporate sponsors. In an essay by This American Life titled “take the money and run,” it is revealed that each committee chair is listed on a chart regarding how much money said candidate can rise on said committee. And the more influence that committee is, the more lucrative it tends to be. The more money you manage to rise, the higher up that chart you will be able to clime. And if you fail to raise enough money, they will start pushing you down the chart to the less lucrative/influential committees.

      While the essay did not say, I suspect that this chart extends to state level offices as well, including state governor, and possibly even the President of the United States itself. That means that you will not be given “permission” to run for a specific office unless you are able to raise enough campaign donations for that specific office.

      If that is true, then we would expect to see the biggest sellouts to also inhabit the positions of the most influence. While those who vote independently and vote against the Wall Street Agenda will find it impossible to rise through the ranks of the Democratic Party as well as to relevant committee positions.

      1. beene

        This may relate to the issue of new politicians being placed on banking committee when they arrive in DC.

    4. Paul Tioxon

      I just went to the site and it is good example of bifurcation, the D’s are all at the top, the R’s are all at the bottom, and few low scoring D’s should be purge targets. I don’t know what you think this proves in terms of judging D’s as a party on the whole, based on OSEC criteria, but D’s are the only large group of people with decision making power that could possibly be influenced to make meaningful reforms, based on this chart. No, I am not asking anyone if I’m missing anything, or looking to debate who the good guys are. If you are going to use OSEC policies as model legislation, it looks like the only people who will listen in numbers large enough to start changing laws are D’s. Good site. We know who to pound in the primaries to get them out of politics from the D perspective.

      1. Vatch

        I noticed the same thing. However, Ex-PFC Chuck had a very interesting comment above, which is definitely worth reading. Some of the Democrats with middle range scores may have been doing the absolute minimum to satisfy their base, while simultaneously ensuring that the finance industry lobbyists get what they want. As Chuck pointed out, this technique was very important during those periods when the Democrats controlled the House.

        I notice that the Democrats scoring 41.6% did not vote as a bloc; on some of the votes, some votes Y and some voted N. Hunkerdown expressed the hope that Chuck would find the article that he read about this, and I concur.

  7. GuyFawkesLives

    One question for Occupy the SEC, why have you not highlighted bribes from law firms like K&L Gates and Covington & Burling on these lists of contributions? It seems to me that the inclusion of these law firms that represent the bankers’ interests are just as important to highlight as the contributions from the financial industry.

    Am I wrong?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      You’re not wrong. However, integrating new data sources is real work. Hopefully, OSEC will get lots of attention, and maybe even a little funding, to enable them to continue this work. (“It doesn’t do itself, you know,” as my father used to say (and how annoying that was, and — now I realize — how true.)

      1. blurtman

        Tyson couldn’t comprehend the obvious – that not only the low tech jobs could be performed by “third world” countries, but also the high tech jobs as well. But neither did Janet Yellen comprehend this when I was enrolled at Berkeley. History has proven them to both be incredibly wrong.

  8. Vatch

    You list Cuellar (8.3), Barrow (8.3), Schrader (16.6), and Matheson (16.6) as the worst Democrats in the House.

    Has the chart been changed today on the OSEC website? Because here are the worst Democrats on the list now:

    McIntyre (7.1), Matheson (7.6), Owens (8.3), and I just refreshed their page, in case I was using obsolete data, and now the web page is down. So I can’t list any more of the baddies. Nuts. Technical difficulties? Perhaps technical difficulties imposed on the site by outsiders…?

    1. Vatch

      Okay, it’s back. Continuing the list of baddies:

      Cuellar (8.3), Barrow (8.3), Schrader, Rahall, and Gallego (16.6).

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I don’t know. As you can see, I did all the data work by hand. The page is screaming for a filter, but that would be a wonderful improvement, but also work. I’m especially tickled about the SVG approach, because with the right markup, a lot of filtering would be done, but because (again with the right markup) other data sets could be added.

      OSEC could become the FreedomWorks of the left, which would be pretty keen!

  9. Vatch

    There seems to be a problem in the vertical axis of the OSEC chart of voting X donations. It shows a % symbol, but instead, the numbers are decimal fractions from 0.0 up to 0.6, presumably ending in 1, which is not displayed. If these were actually percentages, then everyone would have received less than 1% from the financial industry, which tugs at credibility even more than a certain Marvel comic book character can stretch.

  10. MedicalQuack

    Impressive, great work by using Firebug! Like it! This site and my own are on the same page. I said a long time ago the Democrats are a bunch of dupers and they walk around with all their numbers and stats like Linus on Peanuts with his blanket. We have a real problem today and that’s the fact that people can’t separate virtual world values with the real world and I blame the media a bit for keeping that rolling. I wrote about it months ago and we saw it at the VA too. Even Anderson Cooper said after talking with the VA folks “all they could do is talk about their numbers”…duh..

    http://ducknetweb.blogspot.fr/2014/03/virtual-worlds-real-world-we-have.html

    We live in the most complex times ever and do you think and I mean both parties here that there’s enough smarts between all of them that would fund the Office of Technology Assessment, a non partisan agency that could help them, nope they choose to stay dumb, so again love it, you ripped them with Firebug! All of them just about in Congress are just dupers with technology. A few weeks ago crazy Issa tweeted the US Constitution and I asked him in a twee to nicely stop..what the heck did he see in the value there other than making noise, but he also tweets “Friday puppy pictures” he thinks we are just biting at the bit to see from him as well. That’s no kidding, follow him and see and sometimes he varies it with “Friday kitties” too:) Anyway making my point about their perceptions and strange behaviors as they are all over thier heads.

    http://ducknetweb.blogspot.com/2014/07/bill-to-restore-office-of-technology.html

    If you are interested in privacy I have been working 3 years with trying to get a law passed on data selling as banks and corporations are making billions selling our data and as we get repackaged big flaws are showing up, like people in the web mess and on mailing lists being shown they have diabetes when they don’t. Heck all I have to do anymore is write an article about diabetes and then comes the marketing emails so gosh knows how times I’ve been sold and repackaged. I do have a real issue with flaws, though too as they show me with two aliases with data brokers, and never use one in my life.

    http://www.gofundme.com/auyxd0

    I’ll stop now as I get going on this topic and I can’t stop sometimes and thanks for reading this comment by all means.

  11. Jess

    Don’t worry, when it comes to a really crucial, once-in-a-generation bill that the Dem Pres has sold out on, Grayson will do his part and sell out, too.

    Grayson is the new Kucinich: talk a great game, cast laudatory but inconsequential votes for or against bills whose fate is already determined, and keep the rubes thinking that there are ANY democrats worth a shit.

    Two guys who gave up shots at being a progressive alternative to Shillary: Kucinich and Grayson.

      1. GnomeDigest

        We saw it play out exactly like that for the healthcare vote. When Kucinich and Grayson’s votes were actually required to pass the insurance company bailout legislation (romney/obamacare) they handed them over. Sure both talked a big game about single payer or a public option but their actions clearly laid out their priority: their own political career. And unlike the Rethugs that crossed over, they demanded nothing in exchange for their vote.

        We saw again recently the same kind of BS from Bernie Sanders with the support Israels warcrimes in Gaza vote. When the party demands the vote, these career politicians hand them over because first and foremost they protect their own career over anything else.

        The kabuki they dish out to be elected is tailored to the voters they hope to recruit. But ultimately they know they depend on the parties money and infrastructure to stay in office so when their votes are called on and actually needed, they hand them over.

  12. albrt

    It’s nice to have a tool to filter out the people who are even worse than the Democratic leadership, especially since some of them are from my state and have been known to call me asking for money.

    But there appears to be a really Dem-friendly grading curve here. This shows Nancy Pelosi as a fire-breathing reformer and Steve Isreal as barely below middling. I’m having a hard time with that.

Comments are closed.