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Wall Street hosts fundraiser for Barney Frank

House Financal Services Committee ranking member Barney Frank (D-MA) holds a news conference outside the U.S. Captiol May 11, 2011 in Washington, D.C.

Jeremy Hobson: There's a political fundraiser going on tonight on Wall Street that's bound to raise a few eyebrows. It involves one of the writers of the new financial reform law asking for money from the very industry that's now trying to weaken that law.

Our New York bureau chief Heidi Moore reports.


Heidi Moore: Every morning, a Wall Street trade group called SIFMA sends out an email with the day's news. SIFMA is the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. It represents banks and trading firms. So it's no surprise that the email is usually heavy with critical news stories about financial reform laws, like the Dodd-Frank Act.

But tonight, SIFMA will be hosting a fundraising dinner for Democratic Congressman Barney Frank: yes, he's the Frank in Dodd-Frank. SIFMA members will pay $1,000 or more for a seat at the table. The deal here isn't hard to spot: Wall Street wants to bend Frank's ear.

Laurence Lese: In politics, fundraising is very, very important to get the attention of the congresspeople.

That's Laurence Lese, a partner with law firm Duane Morris. What Wall Street wants is to influence a law that is meant to supervise it more closely. With the 2012 election on the horizon, Wall Street is trying to flex its muscle with its perceived adversaries. Frank's the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee -- but he is by no means alone. Politicians from President Obama on down are angling to fill up their campaign coffers. Obama just held fundraisers for prominent Wall Street executives who could pay $35,000 or more for a seat.

Lese: One of the number one skills of a congressman or a senator is they know how to count. They know how to count votes and they know where their fundraising comes from.

Not that that will guarantee results. Just as an interest group will give to both parties, a politician will accept from all sides. Here's Jerry Goldfeder. He's an election lawyer with Stroock & Stroock & Lavan.

Jerry Goldfeder: They may expect something in return, but it's rare that a congressman or presidential candidate can be bought.

SIFMA declined to comment on the Manhattan dinner. Barney Frank's spokesman told us: "If Wall Street is trying to buy influence with him, it has been a dramatic failure."

In New York, I'm Heidi Moore for Marketplace.

About the author

Heidi N. Moore is The Guardian's U.S. finance and economics editor. She was formerly the New York bureau chief and Wall Street correspondent for Marketplace.

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