Mr. Smith Didn’t Do This
How free market is Wall Street?


The blame game has begun.

To liberals, the financial meltdown results from recklessness by Wall Street’s “big banking boys” who, as socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) explains, were “empowered by the extreme economic views of [former] Senator Phil Gramm, President George Bush, Sen. John McCain,” and their ilk.

Beginning in the 1990s, this narrative goes, free market, Republican extremists told government regulators to take a hike so the barons of high finance could indulge in an economic free-for-all, thus producing our current travails. Numbered among these extremists, it seems, is retired liberal Rep. Jim Leach (R., Iowa), who coauthored a deregulatory measure now being ritualistically denounced by the Left.

This narrative assumes that the typical Wall Streeter takes time off from Caligula-style orgies of predatory capitalism only to reread tattered copies of The Road to Serfdom. Or anything by Ayn Rand. Also assumed: that employees of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, and all other institutions now seeking Uncle Sam’s assistance must be the financial muscle behind the modern conservative movement and the Republican party. How else could things have gone so terribly awry?

“Isn’t it ironic,” one pundit asked recently in the Washington Post, “that the same firms that preached free-market capitalism are now the ones begging for a taxpayer bailout?”

But are these firms really staffed by legions of modern-day Adam Smiths?

A review of Federal Election Commission data for the current presidential-election cycle sheds light on this important question. Judging by who they support for president, a strong majority of employees at the highest reaches of Wall Street’s big financial institutions are, well, big liberals. More Wall Streeters shower far more money — both overall as well as on average — on the more liberal presidential candidates than on their more conservative alternatives. And this tilt to the Left predates the current election cycle.

All of the following data comes from searches conducted on Fundrace2008, the user-friendly aggregation tool on It lets you sort presidential campaign contributions by the contributor’s employer. The data presented below are solely individual contributions from employees of the firms in question and do not reflect third-party contributions from employee political action committees, which appear to tell a somewhat different story. Nor does this analysis delve into employee contributions to candidates for the House and Senate.

Individual contributions to presidential candidates offer a window into the political and ideological souls of those making the contributions. Analyzing these contributions, then, can tell us something about the political and ideological cultures that permeate modern day Wall Street.

So, let’s start where this whole financial meltdown started, at Bear Stearns and JPMorgan Chase.

At Bear Stearns, 157 investment bankers, managing directors, senior managing directors, and other financial sophisticates contributed over $264,000 to Democratic candidates. In contrast, 77 of their colleagues sent about half that amount — $122,000 — to Republicans.

At JPMorgan Chase, the Democratic advantage, at 3 to 1, was even larger. Contributions to Sens. Obama, Clinton, Dodd, Biden, and Edwards totaled $275,000 from 238 elites in that firm. Republican presidential aspirants had to make do with $93,000 from 83 equally important-sounding people.

The story was much the same at Lehman Brothers. There, the Democratic field swept up over 560,000 pre-bankruptcy dollars from 272 former Lehman employees. Republican candidates received less than half that — $256,000 — from 145.

This Democratic advantage in both total contributions and number of employees contributing also holds at the latest casualties on Wall Street, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Goldman employees cut checks to Democratic candidates totaling an astounding $789,000. At Morgan Stanley, the generosity was even greater: $818,000. Goldman Republicans contributed less than a third the amount of their Democratic colleagues; those at Morgan Stanley less than half.