John McCain struck a tough, quasi-populist pose this morning during his morning sweep of the television news shows. Speaking to NBC's Matt Lauer about the current crisis on Wall Street, the Republican nominee said executives have "treated it like a casino and need to be held accountable and stop walking away with these fat-cat packages."
Leave aside for the moment the fact that one of McCain's top economic advisers, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, walked away with a $42 million "golden parachute" after being fired. Overall, the generic Wall Street "fat cat" is a tough character for McCain to cast as his nemesis, given his success in fundraising among their ranks. As Bloomberg reported Monday night, securities and investment companies have collectively donated millions to both McCain and Barack Obama.
Employees from Merrill Lynch, one of the two big disaster stories in Monday's economic news, have donated over $100,000 more to McCain than Obama in this cycle. As Bloomberg reported, McCain's "largest campaign donors" were employees of Merrill Lynch, as well as their families, who in total gave the Arizonan $298,413.
Lehman Brothers, by contrast, donated almost three times as much to Obama as McCain. But today, however, it was McCain who inveighed at length against the "inside-the-beltway old-boy network," including executives "walking away with pay packages for failed enterprises." When speaking with Lauer, McCain also pledged to "fix the regulatory system and bring it into the 21st century," an idea none too popular with the same Wall Street finance moguls who have donated so generously to both parties.
As the New York Times reported in a news analysis on Tuesday, McCain "has consistently characterized himself as fundamentally a deregulator," and "has no history prior to the presidential campaign of advocating steps to tighten standards on investment firms." According to a survey of his past policy positions and key economic advisers, the paper concluded that McCain has "never departed in any major way from his party's embrace of deregulation."
Whether or not McCain's stance on regulation is the product of deep-seated ideological belief or due to the influence of donors and lobbyists is, of course, impossible to determine. But if you're curious to do your own digging on the presidential money chase, check out Huff Post's Fundrace tool, where you can check out the donations from employees of AIG, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Bros. and other major players in the current Wall Street crisis. You can also check out the donor histories of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.