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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Executive Payola

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has unleashed a radio ad campaign targeting five Republican members of Congress. The ads claim that the Republicans "voted to allow the big banks to pay high-rolling executives unchecked compensation and bonuses." But that’s not quite right.

The ads are not based on any explicit vote for "unchecked compensation and bonuses." Rather, the Democrats are referring to Republican votes against H.R. 4173, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which includes a section on executive compensation that Democrats say will require a shareholder vote on compensation.

But the compensation provision was just one section among many in the bill. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the legislation would also broaden the scope of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s authority and create new mechanisms for liquidating certain firms in default, among other things. All told, the CBO estimates the bill would increase budget deficits by $10.7 billion over the 2010-2014 period and by $4.5 billion over the 2010-2019 period.

One of the Republicans attacked in the radio campaign, Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, alluded to the expansion of government spending and oversight while explaining his opposition to the legislation. His press release on his vote said the bill would "provide for a ‘permanent bailout’ fund, create yet another federal agency called the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, and also establish a government ‘credit czar’ to dictate which financial products can and cannot be available to American consumers."

Another target, Rep. Mary Bono Mack of California, said she believed the legislation "sets us on course to a government takeover of our financial institutions."

The House passed the bill, but the Senate hasn’t yet voted on it.