10:45 am Feb. 2, 20121
Appearing on "Morning Joe" today for what was supposed to have been an attack on super PACs, Senator Charles Schumer found himself defending his own contributions from Wall Street, saying it wasn't fair to compare his fund-raising to the new unregulated system, and that the financial-services sector isn't giving him much these days anyway.
Host Joe Scarborough said that "everybody I know...laughed" yesterday, when Schumer convened a press conference to announce that he would hold hearings on super PACs as chairman of the Rules Committee.
Scarborough praised Schumer for being able to "shake money out of the pants of Wall Street guys," but wondered if he was "really the best person to come forward and decry the powerful interests of corporate money."
"Number one, it's not corporate money, that can't be given to an individual," Schumer said. "Second, and most importantly, it's disclosed and disclosed immediately and there are limited amounts: $5,000 per individual.
"This is not millions of dollars, anonymously given, and running huge kinds of negative ads. When you have a small number of very wealthy people able to control the process, as they have been, anonymously, it's corrosive to democracy."
One of the problems facing Democrats who argued against the new rules is that they've been using super PACs too. Mika Brezinzski asked if Majority Leader Harry Reid should revoke the email he sent soliciting donations for the Senate Democrats' own super PAC (called simply "Majority PAC").
"Look, the vast majority of this is, when you look at the numbers, on the Republican side, because they have most of the wealthy wealthy donors," Schumer replied.
"No we don't!" interrupted Scarborough, who served as a Republican congressman from Florida in the 1990s. "No we don't! You've got all the rich guys on Wall Street who have supported Democrats for years, senator!"
"No, no, look at where Wall Street is giving," Schumer said. "They're giving overwhelmingly to Republicans now because people like myself have passed the Dodd-Frank Bill which they don't like."
Scarborough wasn't buying it.
"So they're not giving you money anymore?" he asked.
"No. Very little, frankly," Schumer said.
"To me," Schumer said. "That's correct. Because they didn't like the Dodd-Frank Bill, which I think is balanced reform and fair reform. And they don't like the idea of saying millionaires should pay a 30 percent tax."
According to Open Secrets, the securities and investments industry has, as Schumer says, preferred Republicans so far this cycle, giving $14.6 million to Republicans and $9.5 million to Democrats. But in the Senate, Democrats have received $3.5 million to Republicans' $2.4 million.
Whether Schumer's own fund-raising has slowed down is difficult to judge, since he was re-elected over token opposition in November of 2010, just four months after Dodd-Frank passed the Senate, and hasn't bothered to start raising in earnest for his next election in 2016.
But he vastly outraised his colleagues leading up to 2010, collecting $2.7 million from the securities and investment industry, or about twice as much as the next closest candidate, who happened to be New York's junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand.
If Wall Street is unhappy with the Dodd-Frank vote, they're not taking it out on Gillibrand, who is up for re-election again in 2012, and also voted for the bill. She leads all 2012 candidates in Wall Street contributions, nearly doubling the second-place candidate, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, who also supported Dodd-Frank.
Schumer said he didn't want to make it a partisan issue and that the "evil" effects of super PACs went "way beyond Wall Street."
After about eight minutes, he finally got to his talking points, saying Democrats won't "unilaterally disarm," but they will make campaign finance reform a "major issue" in the next six months.
"We're going to have hearings on the super PACs," he said. "We're going to ask the leaders of the super PACs and the contributors to come before us and ask why they don't want to be for disclosure and why they don't want to reveal what they're doing. And you will see that this will become a major issue in the campaigns and in the 2012 election."