All about ideas…

Washington – and the halls of Congress – swarm with bankers and lobbyists

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According to the Washington Post, bankers and lobbyists are out in force in Washington, determined to defeat or greatly weaken Sen. Dodd’s Financial Reform legislation.

If not for the sea of navy business suits and the hotel ballroom’s chandeliers, the gathering Wednesday morning might have seemed more like a pep rally than a meeting of the American Bankers Association. But the 900 bankers were preparing to storm Capitol Hill, and they were getting revved up.

“We have a lot of work cut out for us,” David Bochnowski, an Indiana bank executive, said to the troops, who had assembled just after 8 a.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel downtown. “Our job is to have an impact on the Hill. Are we going to have that impact?”

“Yeah!” the bankers shouted, as applause broke out.

“We need to shape what’s in and what’s out of any reform legislation,” Michigan banker Art Johnson told his peers from every corner of the country. “All of us know what’s at stake. It’s really about our industry’s future . . .[…]

The bankers soon headed to Capitol Hill, talking points in hand — white folder for House visits, blue folder for Senate visits. They were to protest the creation of a new consumer financial protection regulator, to argue that national banks should remain exempt from state consumer laws and to advocate that the Federal Reserve keep oversight for some state-chartered banks, among other issues.

While the bankers showed up in force this week, they are not the only ones with a hefty stake in the financial regulatory overhaul under consideration in Congress. Investment banks, hedge funds, student loan firms, coal companies, automakers and credit card companies are among those seeking to influence the reforms.

Of course, partisan politics reared its ugly head, once again, as Republicans signaled their rejection of any Democrat-sponsored legislation. At the gathering of bankers before they left for Capital Hill, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) acted as their pep rally leader, urging the crowd to “stand up for themselves” and defeat Sen. Dodd’s legislation.

With 900 bankers and thousands of lobbyist, all carrying sacks of money with which to influence Congress, it’s going to be nearly impossible to get good legislation that actually does regulate the banking industry…and brings some sunlight into shadow banking. But good legislation that protects both consumers and investors and brings a lot of the risky financial instruments out in the open and manages the level of risk any bank can take with customers’ money is a necessity.

I hope voters care enough about their wallets and savings to stand up to the bankers and tell their Congress members to stand firm for the American people. After all, bankers are not Gods and should not be treated as such!

Oh, and in case anyone has forgotten what happened over the last two years ago, here’s a reminder of why regulation is necessary.


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