Auction 2012: How The Bank Lobby Owns Washington

By:  Dan Froomkin and Paul Blumenthal

When Washington puts policy on the auction block, bankers are consistently the highest bidders.

The industry's most striking victory has been the watering down of post-financial crisis reforms, to the point that banks are now bigger than ever and the bonuses keep flowing. But Wall Street's campaign spending and lobbying power is so intimidating that banks have repeatedly stuck the public with the tab for their losses and no one in Washington stops them.

Why hasn't the government done something about outrageous ATM fees? Or credit card interest rates up to 30 percent? Bankers' clout is such that common-sense pro-consumer legislation is presumptively dead on arrival at Capitol Hill if it threatens banks' revenue streams.

An epic recent battle between consumers and Wall Street was fought over a congressional proposal to give bankruptcy judges the legal authority to modify principal balances on mortgages in a way that is fair to both parties. Known as "cramdown," it would have allowed more than a million ordinary Americans to keep their homes. But because it would have leveled the playing field between banks and debtors -- and would have forced banks to officially recognize losses they don't want to acknowledge -- the financial services industry fought cramdown with everything it had.

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