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Wells Fargo has cut checks to congressional questioners' campaigns

It's a different spin on the system of "checks and balances."

Wells Fargo has cut checks to the congressional campaigns of politicians on both sides of the aisle, including some who are questioning CEO John Stumpf on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

The Wells Fargo and Company Employee PAC has made donations to 20 of 22 members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, including ranking Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown and Republican Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby, according to a review of Federal Election Commission data.

Among the GOP committee members, only Louisiana Sen. David Vitter did not receive a donation from Wells Fargo's PAC, and among Democrats, only Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has not been the recipient of any PAC cash.

CEO Stumpf has also donated personally to several senators who will grill him on Wells Fargo's fake account scandal on Tuesday morning.

Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf speaks at the Bay Area Council Outlook Conference on May 17, 2016 in San Francisco, California.
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Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf speaks at the Bay Area Council Outlook Conference on May 17, 2016 in San Francisco, California.

The bank declined to comment, and Wells Fargo directed an inquiry on the donations to its statement on PAC contributions: "Wells Fargo's political action committees (PACs) are funded entirely through voluntary contributions by our eligible exempt team members. Decisions about which candidates get support are made by Government Relations state and federal directors. All Wells Fargo PACs report to the Federal Elections Committee and/or to state agencies as required by law. Contributions are made without regard to the private political preferences of the company's senior management."

Wells Fargo is facing pressure not just in the Senate, but also an investigation in the House of Representatives, in the ongoing fallout from the bank's being fined by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other agencies two weeks ago.

Federal prosecutors also began an investigation into practices at Wells' consumer banking division that led to more than 5,000 staffers being fired after generating hundreds of thousands of fake accounts, evidently because they sought to meet performance goals.

Wells Fargo has since pledged to change its management of retail bank staffers, but the plunge in its share price, combined with the silence of its largest shareholder — Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett — has left room for doubt that its policy changes will satisfy all of its stakeholders.