Last week, the CEO of Goldman Sachs emerged from a White House meeting with President Obama with a message to Congress: Don't play around with the debt ceiling.
"You can re-litigate these policy issues in a political forum, but we shouldn't use threats of causing the U.S. to fail on its obligations to repay its debt as a cudgel," Lloyd Blankfein said.
Yet executives and others at Goldman Sachs and similar big financial firms have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to some of the very politicians who helped set the stage for the current showdown—and concerns over the debt ceiling.
For instance, Goldman Sachs was the fourth-largest donor to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Donations from individuals associated with the firm—where's Cruz's wife works—and the company PAC totaled almost $66,000.
Perhaps more than any other lawmaker, Cruz has insisted that a bill to keep the government funded be tied to measures that would weaken the Affordable Care Act, setting the stage for last week's government shutdown. As lawmakers fight over how to pass a short-term measure to fund government agencies, the debate threatens to engulf discussions over whether to increase the debt ceiling.
Overall, people affiliated with Goldman Sachs donated roughly equal amounts to Republicans and Democrats in Congress. But the financial sector generally favors the GOP. Contributions in the current cycle total $64.4 million, 56 percent of which has gone to Republicans.
Moreover, there are several conservative Republicans who supported the strategy that led to the shutdown who count major business interests among their top donors.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has received $51,000 from the American Bankers Association's PAC since 2010, making the group his second-largest donor. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., counted the PAC as his fourth-largest donor, at $22,000.
Association President Frank Keating, who is also a member of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Debt Reduction Task Force, penned an editorial last month in The Washington Post warning of grave consequences should the nation default on its debt. "Using the debt ceiling as leverage in the deficit debate is unwise and dangerous," he wrote. "Citizens nationwide are frustrated with the political stalemate in Washington. But our nation's financial integrity should not be used as a bargaining chip."
Yet last week, Huelskamp told The Washington Times he would vote against raising the debt ceiling without a long-term fiscal plan that includes Obamacare restrictions.
This article appears in the October 7, 2013, edition of NJ Daily.