Election 2012: One Out of Every Ten Political Ad Spending Dollars Goes to Attacking Wall Street

More than one out of every ten dollars spent this election cycle from mid-April to mid-September has gone to attacking the financial sector.

President Obama’s own campaign has been the single-biggest spender on ads critical of the financial services sector, with a little help from his friends. A spot jointly sponsored by Obama and the Democratic National Committee, in which Obama asserts that Romney would “roll back regulations on big banks,” has the most money behind it of any anti-Wall Street ad: $22 million and counting. (In a newer ad, Obama charges that Romney would “roll back regulations on the banks that cratered the economy.”) Half of that $22 million went to an NBC network buy during the Olympics, ensuring national as well as swing-state exposure.

Obama’s campaign and his supporting super PAC,Priorities USA Action, also account for 99% of the $26 million spent on ads slamming Bain Capital. The top Republican sponsor of anti-financial-services ads is the Republican National Committee, which spent $6.4 million on an ad criticizing Obama’s economic record. The ad shows an image of the Wall Street sign (among others) against a voiceover: “What did we get? National debt over $15 trillion and climbing.” The implication: that the bank and American International Group rescues drove up the debt. The RNC is the only Republican presidential advertiser to make the list of big anti-Wall Street spenders.

And yet, this is a passage from Jeff Connaughton’s book,”The Payoff”, on the fight over breaking up the big banks.
You’d think that senators would at least come to the floor and debate what role Wall Street had played in the disaster and what needed to be done about it. For a long time, Ted was the only one. It had been exhilarating as Ted galloped down the gauntlet, opposing the President, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, Wall Street, the Delaware banks, and, most especially, the no-plan Republicans. He threw caution to the wind, cheered on by the media, his hometown Wilmington News, and many Americans (and, best of all, Delawareans)…

Yet it was all over for the Brown-Kaufman amendment. After several drafts of a press release, I asked Ted, just returned from the stinging Senate floor defeat: How do we start it? He slumped into his chair and dictated: “I am disappointed.” Not long afterwards, a senior Treasury official was quoted about the Brown-Kaufman amendment: “If we’d been for it, it probably would have happened. But we weren’t, so it didn’t.”

Barack Obama supports the big banks and the overpaid bosses that run them. It’s why he lied about clawing back AIG bonuses, subtly mocking the American public for being angry at the very press conference where he announced his intention to recoup the money. It’s why he called Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein and JPM CEO Jamie Dimon “savvy businessmen” and said, about their bonuses  “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free- market system.”

This election is a con. Everyone knows that Romney will say and do anything to get elected, and no one was surprised he has contempt for people without money and power. But Obama is still supported affirmatively by Democrats. As I’ve said before, the power of these people to destroy our bargaining leverage comes from our willingness to be tricked by them.

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About Matt Stoller

From 2011-2012, Matt was a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He contributed to Politico, Alternet, Salon, The Nation and Reuters, focusing on the intersection of foreclosures, the financial system, and political corruption. In 2012, he starred in “Brand X with Russell Brand” on the FX network, and was a writer and consultant for the show. He has also produced for MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show. From 2009-2010, he worked as Senior Policy Advisor for Congressman Alan Grayson. You can follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.


  1. jake chase

    You have to admire Obama’s campaign message: ‘Romney stinks worse than I do.’ It’s like two ridiculous car companies, each claiming the other will guzzle more gas and fall apart sooner, two toxic beverage companies, each claiming the other rots more teeth and creates more obesity, two cigarette companies, each claiming the other produces more lung cancer. Do we have any evidence that advertising actually works for anyone but the agencies and the networks?

  2. kj1313

    This is the issue that he lost my vote on. After the 2008 elections I was waiting and waiting for meaningful reform and much to my surprise nothing but excuses were made. No matter, I will be voting 3rd party. (Not that it really matters as I live in NY)

    1. CogWheeler

      If you vote for Obama, maybe in 2016 Libertarianism will actually get a fair chance. If you 3rd party, we may be looking at 8 years of Plutocratic acceleration.

      1. redleg

        And voting 2 party doesn’t? The only difference is velocity and the amount of bible thumping that goes along with it.

  3. Middle Seaman

    Matt and the others,
    Why did you support Obama in the primaries? Even the Nation knew that he was created by Wall Street. It’s 5 years too late.

    1. Yves Smith

      I wish you would not rewrite history as far as Stoller and Obama are concerned.

      Stoller was nearly thrown out of the 2004 Democratic convention for taking issue with the fawning over Obama’s speech. He continued to be critical in 2005 and 2006. He gave tepid support to Obama in the primaries, and then only because Obama was the sole candidate who was speaking out against the war in Iraq.

  4. Brindle

    I’m voting 3rd party. Will be interesting to see what the combined percent of the vote goes to 3rd parties in this election.

    Wouldn’t be surprised to see Gary Johnson get 3-5% in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada.

    I’m leaning Green Party myself.

  5. amateur socialist

    It would be tragic to reelect Bogama unless his opponent was obviously more corrupt and less principled and displayed consistently worse judgement and lack of experience in his campaign.

    Four more years .

    1. TK21

      How is it obvious that Romney is worse than Obama on any issue? Seriously, please provide specifics. Obama’s signature achievement is a copy of a Romney plan. You can’t fit a playing card between them on issues of military or economic policy.

      Serious question: what makes it “obvious” that Romney is “more corrupt and less principled” than Obama?

      1. ReaderOfTeaLeaves

        For starters:
        Romney has money stashed in tax havens in the Caymans and elsewhere.
        Obama doesnt.

        Romney still refuses to disclose full info on his tax returns going back 14 years.
        Obama has disclosed his full tax returns.

        There is good evidence that Romney profited by looting the pension funds of companies taken over by Bain, leaving aging employees at the mercy of Social Security and federally subsidized programs.
        Whatever anyone thinks of Obama, there is zero evidence that he ever sought to profit by looting anyone’s pension fund.

        1. Mark P.

          But it may be Obama didn’t ever gain the opportunity to do that.

          Because on the evidence the choice between the two candidates amounts to a choice between a water-boy for the oligarchs and one of the oligarchs themselves.

      2. emptyfull

        “You can’t fit a playing card between them on issues of military or economic policy.”

        Taxes on upper bracket.

        There. 2 issues where there is actual space.

        Reality is bad enough. Please don’t exaggerate.

  6. Mary Bess

    Matt, thanks for looking behind the curtain once again. Your fighting, don’t-pull no-punches spirit is an inspiration.

  7. Aaron


    I’d like to know what your thoughts are on what appears to be one of the other great cons of the year? I’m referring to the big ramp in short sales by banks subsequent to the mortgage settlement. Just looking at Tom Lawler’s distressed sale data via CR, and it seems like banks are using this opportunity to fluff their balance sheets even more while alleviating themselves of the obligation to actually foreclose on properties and pay for carrying costs.

    The con gets even more amazing when you consider the issue of mortgage debt relief which is about to expire. Add to that the issues with FICO treating short sales similar to foreclosures, which you have already mentioned.

    Interesting times.

  8. bobh

    Obama’s default move when dealing with the rich and powerful is to roll on his back and pee himself. He usually does it in private, but last week 72 million people were watching.

  9. mac

    IF we were to elect a third party president, what then? The House and Senate would still be 2 party and run by a very few people.
    If you want to have more than two parties the House and Senate must be changed.

  10. Nathanael

    The real problem lies in the Senate. We’ve actually gotten majorities in the House which would have changed things, President or no President, but everything goes to the Senate and dies.

    The Senate is a profoundly undemocratic institution, so it’s not surprising that it’s the root of all dysfunction in the US government….

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