Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bank Lobbyists Pulling Out Every Stop to Sink Real Reform

Bank Lobbyists Pulling Out Every Stop to Sink Real Reform

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You would think that having won some of the key battles in financial reform in spite of destroying the world economy with their greed that bank lobbyists would be counting themselves lucky and relaxing a little. But they believe it is their God-given right to win every single legislative battle and run all things finance-related with no oversight, regulations, barriers, or fairness to other economic sectors. And because they are so completely used to getting their way in all things, the idea that they might possibly, actually lose a few of these legislative fights is making them frantic.

Elizabeth Warren gave a (great, if I hear right) speech to the House Democratic caucus yesterday, rallying the troops to pass a bill with real muscle in terms of consumer protection, derivative regulations, and putting money back into the main street economy with such provisions as regulating credit card swipe fees. Joe Stiglitz did a press conference for Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) where he raised hell about derivatives and pushed that issue forward. AFR has put together a remarkable lobbying operation focused on the House and Senate conferees (which you can find here if you want to know who the targets are to give them a call). An exciting new consumer-business coalition has come together around the Durbin amendment on swipe fees, which I’m proud to be consulting on. You can check out a new ad on the issue here. Good things are happening on our side, but the bankers are spending money like drunken sailors because they don’t like to lose. They are hiring lobbyists all over town at rates of $50,000 a month or more. They are paying PR lobbyists huge money, and then spending tens of millions in advertising. They are giving politicians massive amounts of PAC dollars- Greg Meeks, who is a key conference committee negotiator on the swipe fee issue, for example, has raked in over $90,000 in campaign contributions from big banks in recent months. The big banks have also made good friends with state treasurers like Shane Osborn from my beloved home state of Nebraska to shill for them, and with credit unions who have come to town today to lobby on the bank’s behalf on the swipe fee issue even though the issue doesn’t impact the credit unions much. (Side note here, just because I am annoyed with these guys for selling out to the bankers: credit unions, according to a report from the Tax Foundation, have a $31.3 billion tax break, so they can serve low-income people, even though the vast majority of their clients are now middle income or wealthy folks. I just had a new idea for cutting the deficit.) The question on financial reform is very simple: do the big banks, which have more concentrated money and power than any industry since the giant monopoly trusts of the 1890s, win on all these key issues in conference committee? Or do consumers, homeowners, and main street businesses?

Politicians like to talk about how complicated everything is, and some issues do get pretty wonky, it’s true. But the age-old which side are you on question remains pretty simple. Let’s hope the Democrats understand they need to be on the opposite side of the guys on Wall Street.

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