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Biggest U.S. Bank PACs Cut Contributions in 2010

Seven of the 10 biggest U.S. banks, including Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc., reduced their political giving even as Congress enacted the biggest overhaul of financial regulations since the Great Depression.

Only Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and MetLife Inc., both based in New York, and the U.S. subsidiary of Deutsche Bank AG of Frankfurt, increased their political action committee donations for the 2010 elections from 2008, Federal Election Commission filings show. The reverse was true for lobbying; eight of the 10 banks boosted their spending this year as compared to a year ago, Senate records show.

Rogan Kersh, associate dean of New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service, said some lawmakers don’t want money from bank PACs, and some financial companies don’t have the funds to give at previous levels.

“Many candidates remain leery of bank funds; they’ve still got a certain odor about them,” Kersh said. “Second, several large banks are still in financial difficulty and aren’t capable of ladling out the cash as in the past.”

The legislation, passed over near-unanimous Republican opposition and signed by President Barack Obama on July 21, is designed to address abuses by the financial sector blamed for the economic meltdown.

Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs boosted donations by its PAC between Jan. 1, 2009, and Sept. 30, 2010, to $848,400, a 10 percent increase from $772,000 during the same period two years earlier. MetLife’s PAC gave out $941,188 in 2009-10, up from $895,400 in 2007-08. Deutsche Bank’s PAC gave $71,700, an increase from $40,900 during the last election.

Other big U.S. banks curbed their political giving.

The PAC of Bank of America, the largest U.S. bank by assets, gave out $626,000, down 27 percent from $856,322 for the 2008 elections. Citigroup’s PAC donations dropped to $567,500 from $886,100.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. gave $974,500 in PAC contributions for the 2010 elections, including $365,000 last month. The total is down 30 percent from the $1.4 million in donations for the 2008 campaign.

Reduced Giving

The others among the 10 largest banks that also reduced their PAC giving for the current campaign were HSBC Holdings Plc, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo & Co. and Barclays Plc.

Of the top 10 banks, only Citigroup and MetLife reduced their lobbying expenses during the first nine months of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009.

Among those that increased their expenses, JPMorgan’s grew to $5.8 million from $4.3 million, and Goldman Sachs increased the amount it spent on lobbying to $3.6 million from $2.1 million.

Shirley Norton, a spokeswoman for Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America, had no immediate comment.

John Calagna, a spokesman for MetLife; Melissa Daly, a spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs; Molly Millerwise Meiners, a spokeswoman for New York-based Citigroup; and Jennifer Zuccarelli, a spokeswoman for New York-based JPMorgan, declined to comment.

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