The NY Times takes us in an unexpected direction with their quasi-coverage of the Bank of the Left:
Owned by Union, Amalgamated Bank Gives Lift to the Left
When Ready for Hillary, a pro-Hillary Rodham Clinton “super PAC,” wanted to take out a million-dollar loan five months before it planned to go out of business, it turned to a bank that was founded to guard the savings of New York City garment workers.
When the Democracy Alliance, an influential club of liberal donors, sought to recruit members in advance of the 2016 elections, the bank’s president helped to make introductions.
And when workers-rights groups wanted to embarrass Walmart and the Gap for unsafe working conditions at factories supplying their stores, Amalgamated Bank, which manages $40 billion in pension fund assets, stepped in again, rounding up fellow investors to warn the companies that they could face lawsuits and shareholder actions.
Four years after nearly collapsing amid the financial crisis, Amalgamated has aggressively carved out a position as the left’s private banker, leveraging deep connections with the Democratic establishment to expand rapidly in a niche long dominated by larger but less nimble financial institutions.
Founded and still principally owned by labor unions, the 92-year-old bank has signed up hundreds of new political clients, including most of the Democratic Party’s major committees, the progressive organizations that align with them, and several of their top Senate recruits.
One might worry that this massive political clout might allow the bank an unusual amount of, well, regulatory flexibility. Or, if one is a reporter for the Times, then one would not worry at all.
In the course of explaining that the Republicans do this too "reporter" Nicholas Confessore mentions a bonus wrinkle:
But many Republican candidates and super PACs, including Jeb Bush and the deep-pocketed super PAC supporting him, do the bulk of their banking with their own version of Amalgamated, the smaller Chain Bridge Bank [link], based in McLean, Va. Founded by Peter Fitzgerald, the former Republican senator from Illinois, Chain Bridge broke into political banking amid the 2008 financial crisis when the Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, was looking for a safe place to deposit his war chest. He chose it for its Republican pedigree and low-risk balance sheet.
But unlike competitors, Amalgamated marries its political banking business to $40 billion in trust assets, mostly union pension funds, that it has used to help activist investors who share its ideological bent.
Amalgamated has been a lead plaintiff in several of the largest derivative lawsuits in recent years, including a successful $150 million lawsuit against Duke Energy, one of the largest power companies in the country.
So Amalgamated splashes around union pension fund assets to launch lawsuits backed by Democratic Party activists. I am not so sure Elizabeth Warren had quite this in mind when she called for banking reform, but she is not quoted in the story, so who knows?
Having read about Amalgamated and Chain Bridge, I would say that some of their services do seem to be utterly legit and campaign oriented. This is about Chain Bridge but applies to both:
The bank requires employees to list cell phone numbers on their business cards so clients can reach them after hours. It will greenlight credit cards immediately for campaign staffers scattered across the country without waiting for credit checks, and it will let campaigns make large wire transfers as soon as their accounts are open. It will also send and receive wire transfers until the Federal Reserve window closes, usually around 5 p.m.—more than two hours later than most banks. That extra time can make a difference. “If you’re a presidential campaign and you need to be up on the air in Iowa tonight, then you need your wire to go to television stations in Des Moines this afternoon,” says Peter Fitzgerald, the bank’s founder and chairman. “That’s a big deal for campaigns.”
Both banks have expertise in byzantine campaign finance regulations, so they zip through paperwork that might daunt a competitor. And both are comfortable making loans on the basis of donor pledges and upcoming fund-raising drives, so there are legitimate benefits offered by these banks.
However. Come the day that Amalgamated puts pension fund assets in a company that then catches an unexpected regulatory tailwind from Washington, the Times will undoubtedly be shocked. And if they actually report on it, I will be shocked too.
And come the day that Amalgamated advances funds to a Democratic candidatebased on promised fund-raising that ultimately falls short, well, that is simply a loss on a loan. If shareholders then contribute new capital to cover the loss, that is hardly a campaign contribution, right? In any case the regulators will oversee that fairly, won't they? Please.