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Which Bank Is the Worst for America? 5 Behemoths That Hold Our Political System Hostage

We've ranked the banks based on how shamelessly they game the political process through lobbying, revolving door politics and campaign donations.

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Even with all this, it's hard to rank the banks in this category. Citigroup just last weekend had 24 people arrested for criminal trespass in New York City when they attempted to close out their accounts, and is hiking fees while its profits soar. JPMorgan's purchase of the failing Washington Mutual was nearly as toxic as Bank of America's purchase of Countrywide, taking over more fraudulent loans. Goldman Sachs has tentacles in absolutely everything; Wells Fargo has some of the worst predatory lending practices to people of color. It's clear that the social costs of the banking industry as a whole are simply too big to bear.

And the Winner Is...

Ranking of 'Worst' Mega Banks in Political Corruption
Campaign Contributions Lobbying Revolving Door Negative Social Costs "Worst" Score
Citigroup 2 1 1 2 18
JP Morgan Chase 3 2 2 3 14
Bank of America 4 3 3 1 13
Goldman Sachs 1 4 5 4 10
Wells Fargo 5 5 4 5 5
A bank gets 5 points for being the 'worst' in a category, 4 for second worst, etc.

 

Ranking the big banks isn’t an easy task. Sure, it’s easy enough to add up the size of the bailouts and the amount spent on campaign donations, or the number of people who’ve spun through the revolving door. It’s harder to gauge the impact on millions of people as the economy collapsed and continues to sputter. And the story of lobbyists and well-placed former employees isn’t just one of numbers, but of influence and success.

Still, when we looked at all of our research, there was one bank that came in first in two categories, and second in another. That bank is Citigroup. It was the clear winner in lobbying spending with $82,350,000, has the most former politicians, executives and lobbyists spinning through its revolving door, and followed only Goldman Sachs in terms of measurable campaign donations.

It’s the current employer of former Office of Management and Budget chief Peter Orszag and former employer of ex-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, the donor of nearly $17 million to campaigns Republican and Democratic, and the recipient of $45 billion in TARP funds.

Of course, one could make an argument for nearly every bank on this list. Goldman Sachs far outspends the others on campaign donations, and Citi might have won the overall lobbying spending race but has been outspent in the past few years by JPMorgan Chase--by nearly $3 million. And Bank of America’s snowballing legal troubles seem evidence enough of malfeasance.

What is clear, any way you slice it, is that the big banks have far too much influence over our politics, and it has enabled them to gain far too much influence over our entire economy.

We are living with the results: real unemployment in the double digits, falling incomes, skyrocketing debt. What can we do about it? With the banks’ deep connections to both parties in Washington, it has long seemed that reining them in is an uphill battle. Yet Wall Street appears to have over-reached, and we're now seeing the blow-back as tens of thousands of people join the Occupy Movement in cities and towns across the country and across the world. Americans are tired of the reign of the big banks, and they're coming together to do something about it. People are moving their money to credit unions, they're fighting to keep families in their homes and they're taking their anger directly to the Titans of Wall Street. Most importantly, they're building a people-powered movement to hold the banks accountable, and if history is any guide, once united in a cause, the American people usually win.