TAMPA — In the competition to fund the U.S. House District 15 campaigns, Democrat Alan Cohn is a substantial underdog with less than a third as much money as Republican incumbent Dennis Ross.
That’s partly because of contributions to Ross from the financial services industry, which Ross helps regulate through his seat on the House Financial Services Committee. He has received six-figure contributions from banks, brokers, insurers and financial advisers over the last two years, while emerging as a reliable vote on the committee against stricter regulation of Wall Street and the financial industry.
Cohn, meanwhile, gets a larger share of his money from individual rather than corporate donors but has received significant support from organized labor.
As of Aug. 6, the date of the most recent campaign finance report, Ross had raised $983,698 for this election cycle — $728,753 of it, or 74 percent, from political action committees.
According to websites that analyze campaign finance reports, including Open Congress and OpenSecrets.org, most of the top donor industries for Ross, and his top 10 donor companies counting their PACs and employees, are in the finance and insurance sector.
Cohn, meanwhile, had raised $289,471, including $47,130, or 16 percent, from PACs. All but $130 of the PAC contributions come from unions representing Teamsters, engineers, communications workers, electrical workers, postal workers and ironworkers.
Most of Cohn’s campaign cash, however, has come through ActBlue, an on-line fundraising service for Democratic candidates. The web site enables supporters of Democrats nationwide to look up candidates they might support and send a check, or even to start their own campaign fund for a candidate. Cohn said most of the contributions he’s received through ActBlue have come from the Tampa area and the district.
Americans for Financial Reform, a consumer-oriented organization that rates Congress members for votes on financial regulation, says Ross has repeatedly voted against the interests of consumers and in favor of the industry.
That included legislation intended to alter requirements of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed in 2010 in response to the 2008 financial collapse, and measures critics said would weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a new agency set up by the Dodd-Frank legislation.
Ross voted in the committee and on the floor, for example, for legislation to replace the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with a five-member committee and to put the bureau more under the control of Congress.
He has also objected to limits on the “payday loan” industry; backed eliminating a requirement that stock brokers or dealers have a fiduciary responsibility to put the interests of their customers first, as investment advisors must; and backed legislation requiring the Securities and Exchange Commission to assess the costs and benefits not only of any new rule, but of all available alternatives, before applying the rule.
Ross spokesman Kyle Glenn responded that Americans for Financial Reform is “a highly partisan liberal group that believes in more regulation and more government.”
The bills on the group’s scorecard, he said all “aim to fix unintended consequences of Dodd-Frank that could result in increased costs for consumers or bring accountability to government agencies that have failed to live up to their mission statements.”
“Campaign contributions do not at all influence the vote of Congressman Ross,” who has “consistently voted to bring transparency and accountability to the financial system,” and will “continue to fight increased regulatory costs,” Glenn said.