According to Federal Election Commission filings, Lael Brainard, a member of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, contributed $750 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign earlier this cycle.
Bloomberg Politics reports:
While Fed officials sometimes identify with either major political party, donations to a presidential candidate by a senior policy maker are unusual, particularly at a time when the central bank is trying to guard its independence from politics. The Fed’s authority has been criticized during the campaign, and both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have questioned decisions about regulation and monetary policy.
Senator Richard Shelby, the Alabama Republican who heads the Senate Banking Committee, said Brainard’s contributions “validate” his concerns about allowing a single president to nominate every Fed board member.
“Governor Brainard’s contributions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign call into question the political independence of the board,” he said in an emailed statement from his press office.
There’s some history here. Brainard was an Obama administration appointee to the Treasury before joining the Fed, and her husband was a top adviser to Clinton in the State Department.
And political donations from Fed officials aren’t exactly unprecedented either. Bloomberg notes that Bill Clinton appointee Alice Rivlin “donated $500 in 1998 to the Democratic National Committee, FEC records show.”
Nevertheless, as Brookings Institution senior fellow Sarah Binder points out, the timing of this contribution could be seen as suspicious:
“If there is an issue here, it is one of optics,” Binder said. “It is a question of where governors want to draw their own lines and how they want to be perceived.”
House Republicans are trying to get the Fed to abide by policy rules. Last year, they passed the Federal Reserve Oversight Reform and Modernization Act. The bill, which Fed Chair Janet Yellen opposed and hasn’t proceeded into law, would require the Fed to describe their policy rule to Congress, and it would be subject to review by the Government Accountability Office.
Brittany Klein is the co-author of Jephthah’s Daughters: Innocent Casualties in the War for Family ‘Equality’ and serves on the board and academic council of the International Children’s Rights Institute.