June 5, 2009

Banks retain some political clout

Bank lobbyists have retained their clout and their financial war chests in spite of the financial crisis, the president of a bank trade group said.

Cam Fine, president of the Independent Community Bankers of America, said political action committees the ICBA runs now have 40 percent more financing than they did a year ago, The New York Times reported Friday.

The banks get it. They understand you need a strong political action committee to get access to the fund-raisers. That's where the lawmakers are, Fine said.

The industry's political clout was demonstrated recently with a failed attempt to allow bankruptcy judges to modify loans for primary residences, the Times said.

The loan-modification provision, included in the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, survived a House vote but was stonewalled in the Senate after industry lobbyists, including the ICBA and the American Bankers Association, refused to negotiate on the issue.

This is one of the most extreme examples I have seen of a special interest wielding its power for the special interest of a few against the general benefit of millions of homeowners and thousands of communities now being devastated by foreclosure, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said as the measure headed for defeat.