Democrats happy to keep Goldman contributions

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The Independent US

A senior executive of Goldman Sachs might be viewed as persona non grata by households across America that have felt the effects of the credit meltdown on jobs and wages, but not it seems by the White House.

Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Wall Street's most powerful firm, visited Barack Obama or his chief economic adviser on at least four occasions in just over a year, and the US President says he is happy to keep almost $1m in campaign donations that came from Goldman employees.

Mr Blankfein was the Wall Street boss most often called by the previous administration's Treasury secretary and his predecessor at the firm, Hank Paulson. And his access was not shut off by the new President. Larry Summers, who heads Mr Obama's economics team, met Mr Blankfein in February last year and again in September.

The Goldman boss attended a presidential speech that same February and was part of a group of Wall Street bosses called in for talks about the financial crisis the following month, when the President admonished them for failing to lend to small businesses and consumers. Mr Blankfein and his wife were also among 438 people invited by the President to an awards dinner in December.

While Goldman prizes its revolving door with governments around the world, which it greases by hiring former officials and by encouraging alumni to go into public service, the fraud charges levelled against it last week have prompted calls for governments to reassess their relationship with the company. The firm is accused of misleading buyers of a toxic mortgage investment which it created on behalf of a hedge fund – allegations Goldman denies.

The Democratic party said it would not be reimbursing almost $1m of campaign contributions from Goldman employees to Mr Obama, and candidates in this year's mid-term elections are resisting calls to return the money. "We have not accepted contributions from specific individuals accused of wrongdoing," a spokesman said, "nor have we advocated for positions that big Wall Street banks generally favour."

Reversing a previous trend, Goldman employees have given more money through the firm to Republicans in the first three months of this year than they have to Democratic candidates.