House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was scheduled to give a speech on income inequality at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School today -- a sign that as much as he’s bad-mouthing the protests popping up around the country, the message from them has him paying attention. But he abruptly canceled it in the face of looming protests -- including from constituents who drove 300 miles from Virginia -- about his policies.
Just two weeks after Cantor called the Occupy Wall Street protesters a “mob” who were “pitting Americans against Americans,” he was to speak on the very topic Americans are angry about -- the gross inequality between the one percent at the top and the 99 percent of Americans who are shut off from a political system that caters to the rich at the expense of everyday people.
The thing is, though, he wouldn't have addressed their demands. An aide let it slip to Politico that his speech would be about how “we make sure the people at the top stay there.” Oops.
It’s no wonder. And it has to be said. Cantor and the wealthy campaign donors that help him stay in office are the very embodiment of the one percent.
If we needed reminding, his third quarter campaign fundraising filings show this pretty clearly. Filings is plural because he has three separate political committees that special interests can contribute too -- one that can accept unlimited corporate donations. It’s a verifiable Cantor, Inc.
On July 5th, while most members were home over the July 4th holiday meeting with constituents, Cantor was 2,600 miles away from his Richmond district at a fundraiser near Los Angeles. According to our research, he received $26,400 from a handful of California donors, mostly attorneys. A few days later, he took in $21,000 in contributions from financial industry donors in Chicago.
On September 20th, Cantor’s campaign committee raked in $81,400 -- mostly from Washington, D.C. lobbyists and political action committees (PACs). The Nickles Group, whose lobbyists forked over $9,250 to Cantor that day, represent tax dodger General Electric, ExxonMobil, insurance giant Cigna, and Philadelphia’s own Comcast, among others.
But this is nothing new for Eric Cantor. Over the past several years, like other leaders, he has raced around the country as if on a giant Monopoly board, scooping up checks from wealthy Americans. And he has spent significant time on Wall Street, building Republican in-roads into what has traditionally been a Democratic fundraising stronghold. He’s spent more time in their boardrooms than in the living rooms of his constituents hearing about their concerns. That’s plain wrong.
In 2010, Cantor told prospective donors on Wall Street that banking and investment managers ought to have “buyers’ remorse” for their past giving to Democrats because the Democrats were planning to move an agenda that included financial regulations. The clear implication? Republicans will stay bought. Second quarter filings that year showed that the pitch worked, according to Huffington Post’s own Sam Stein.
During his time in Congress, Cantor has received at least $5.7 million from Wall Street interests. Just this year alone, Cantor and his leadership PAC have brought in at least $1 million in financial industry money.
In 2010, his caucus depended on millions in spending by outside groups funded by Wall Street titans. That will only increase going into 2012.
Cantor and his colleagues have done all they can to weaken or slow the implementation of Dodd-Frank financial reform -- legislation passed after the banks wrecked our economy. They put Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), who said his job was to "serve the banks"; at the helm of the committee with jurisdiction over the banks.
Cantor can speak (or not) until he’s blue in the face about how he understands income inequality in this country, but until he starts focusing on his constituents and the 99.95 percent of Americans who don’t make big campaign contributions, we know where his allegiances will really lie.
While I’m thinking about it, I have one last question to pose to Cantor: Did you cancel your speech because you were afraid of being confronted by constituents or because you had a fundraiser to get to?
For more information about our research on campaign fundraising and other facts and figures, visit the Web site of the Public Campaign Action Fund.