by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Amalgamated Bank, with just five branches across three cities, would seem an unlikely mover and shaker in the world of Wall Street, let alone Washington, D.C. Yet last fall, it successfully pressured colossal credit card companies Visa, Mastercard, and American Express to use the financial system to track and report gun purchases. Amalgamated is “more than a bank,” says Michael Watson of the Capital Research Center. “It’s a bank for an ideological movement.”
This “ideological” bank holds $7 billion in deposits and manages or maintains custody of some $51 billion. That pales in comparison to financial institutions such as JP Morgan, with its $2.4 trillion in deposits, or the $8.6 trillion in assets managed by BlackRock. But Amalgamated’s outsize influence owes to its role as cue to the wider corporate world given the major sources of that money – the Democratic Party, progressive activist groups, and major labor unions.
Amalgamated is the commercial banker for the Democratic National Committee, along with Joe Biden and virtually every other 2020 presidential contender, and congressional leaders like Rep. Nancy Pelosi. All told, Amalgamated serves more than 500 political organizations. As the New York Times said of Amalgamated, it is “the left’s private banker.”
The bank also works closely with more than 1,000 unions, including the nation’s second-largest union, the Service Employees International Union – alongside other behemoth government employee unions. The bulk of Amalgamated’s trust and investment management business comes from institutional clients, including union pension funds.
Amalgamated’s deep ties to the Democratic Party and its support for liberal and leftist political causes may make it a new model for how progressive corporations, politicians, and activists can work together to push favored causes outside the political process. As an admiring Andrew Ross Sorkin, the New York Times financial journalist, put it in a July 2022 conversation with Amalgamated CEO Priscilla Sims-Brown, “We’re at quite a moment, and your bank is a microcosm of so much of it.”