It’s safe to say that the country’s most recent banking scandal — this time involving Wells Fargo, which pressured employees to create new accounts for existing customers, leading to the opening of millions of fake bank and credit card accounts — has caught the attention of Congress.
On Sept. 8, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau hit the San Francisco-based bank with a record-setting $185 million fine. In the wake of that, House and Senate lawmakers grilled Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf at committee hearings, with both Republicans and Democrats berating him and even asking why he wasn’t in jail.
Though Congress may be angry at the bank now, in the past members were more than happy to accept campaign contributions from Wells Fargo.
This election cycle, the Wells Fargo Company and Employee PAC has made nearly $1 million in contributions to officeholders around the country, according to Federal Election Commission filings. That includes five Minnesota members of Congress who have received campaign cash totaling $26,500.
Though it is based in California and has footprints in many cities nationwide, Wells Fargo has been a major Minnesota presence since merging with Norwest Bank in 1998. St. Paul’s tallest building, and Minneapolis’ third-tallest, each bear Wells Fargo’s name and logo.
The two Minnesota representatives who received the most money from Wells Fargo are Republicans: The bank has been a lead contributor to 3rd District Rep. Erik Paulsen’s re-election campaign — it has sent him $8,000. Sixth District Rep. Tom Emmer got $6,000.
Second District Republican Rep. John Kline, who is retiring, received $4,500.
On the Democratic side, 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson and 4th District Rep. Betty McCollum each received $5,000 from Wells Fargo.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is up for reelection in 2018, has received $2,500 this election cycle, and got $2,000 during the 2014 cycle.
At least two members of Congress — California Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee and Mark DeSaulnier — have pledged to return campaign money from Wells Fargo’s PAC as a result of the scandal.
MinnPost asked each Minnesota member who received Wells Fargo PAC money if he or she intended to return it.
Klobuchar did not say what she would do with Wells Fargo contributions, but said she was “outraged” by what happened, and that she was waiting to hear more from the bank on the situation.
Reps. Emmer, Kline, McCollum, Paulsen, and Peterson did not respond to requests for comment at press time.
Beyond official PAC money, Minnesota members and candidates for federal office have received money directly from Wells Fargo employees and lobbyists for the bank.
According to money in politics watchdog OpenSecrets, Klobuchar, Emmer, and Paulsen, along with Sen. Al Franken, Rep. Keith Ellison, 8th District GOP candidate Stewart Mills, 2nd District GOP candidate Jason Lewis, 2nd District DFL candidate Angie Craig, and 3rd District DFL candidate Terri Bonoff have all received money from Wells Fargo employees, giving in their capacity as private citizens.
Also per OpenSecrets, Paulsen, Kline and Klobuchar each received campaign money from lobbyists who had Wells Fargo as a client.