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GOPers That Ducked Black Debate Took Money From Firms Accused Of Racism

The following piece was produced by the Huffington Post's OffTheBus.

Written by Tim Frasca, with additional reporting by Nancy Watzman, Denise Wheeler, and Aaron Williamson.

While the four top Republican presidential contenders missed the Sept 27 debate at Morgan State University in Baltimore organized to address minority issues, they were busy raking in cash from dozens of business and professional elites, including a top Wall Street banking firm that was sued that same week for racial discrimination.

All in all, it was a grand and enriching week for the four white males most likely to represent the Republicans in the 2008 presidential race. Among them, they amassed over $9 million while they were too "busy" to attend the debate at Morgan State.

The most egregious case is that of the banking house of Morgan Stanley that gave money to the three top Republican contenders during the same week of the minority debate. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) filed a civil rights complaint against Morgan Stanley and its mortgage lender subsidiary Saxon Capital three days before the debate. It was the first challenge against a Wall Street mortgage bundler that alleges redlining in minority communities throughout the United States under the Federal Fair Housing Act.

But Romney, McCain, Thompson and Giuliani weren't a bit inhibited from passing the hat at a company that saddled the gullible with sure-fail housing loans while bypassing qualified minority borrowers. While they didn't feel up to engaging black and Latino questioners at the debate, all but McCain eagerly vacuumed up a total of at least $40,000 that week from Morgan Stanley employees, according to campaign finance reports filed with the FEC (Morgan Stanley executives have given to McCain on other occasions.)

Meanwhile, those succulent sums came from an entity charged in the complaint with having "intentionally structured underwriting to deny homeownership to qualified African American, Latino, Pan-Pacific and Native American communities across the country," according to NCRC President & CEO John Taylor.

"It's shocking that industry leaders like Morgan Stanley are struggling financially because they peddled problematic loans with exploding interest rates, pre-payment penalties and exorbitant fees to more financially vulnerable consumers, while failing to lend to more traditional borrowers," said Taylor in a prepared statement.

Morgan Stanley may have been one of the more egregious abusers of minority populations among the outfits hit up by the Republican contenders, but they certainly weren't alone.

Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the biggest underwriter of U.S. bonds backed by mortgages, became the first firm on Wall Street to close its subprime-lending unit and axed 1,200 employees. Lehman Brothers executives ponied up approximately $10,000 to Giuliani, Romney, Thompson, and McCain, no-shows during the week of the Morgan State debate.

Credit Suisse is another Wall Street firm that piled onto the subprime bandwagon until forced to absorb losses and lay off hundreds of workers just days ago. CS employees had approximately $25,000 for the four candidates who couldn't make it to Morgan State.

Executives at Huron Consulting Group, created by marooned Arthur Andersen financial professionals after their old employer collapsed in the wake of the Enron scandal, passed out even more cash that week, at least $40,000, to Romney. Giuliani and McCain have also gotten money from Huron employees at other times. Ironically, Huron is doing well for itself by giving regulatory advice to companies navigating the terms of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was passed after the Enron rip-off. They made a tidy $30 million helping United Airlines through its bankrupcy proceedings while flight attendants and other workers were giving back an estimated billion dollars' worth of concessions to save the company.

There was cash to scoop up from some of the traditional Republican money vats as well, like employees of Baker Botts, the law firm of long-time Bush family fixer James A Baker III. Baker Botts, good for $11,600 for the three of the quartet that week (Giuliani, Romney, and Thompson), once employed 15-year-old Bush Junior as an office boy. Yet again, while McCain didn't get cash from the firm that week, he has on other occasions.

Disclaimer: While contributors are required to list their employer, there are several loopholes available that may slightly alter the precise counts. These figures are based on what employer associations contributors reported.