Not My Bank, Not My Problem Part II


Yet another member of Congress has been found pushing the Treasury Department for TARP funds despite having a long-standing relationship with that bank. One year ago, Rep. Luis Gutierrez wrote to Treasury urging them to consider bailing out the Puerto Rico-based Banco Popular labeling it a special and urgent case. This was without revealing that Gutierrez had received tens of thousands of campaign contributions from bank executives over the years and that his wife worked as senior vice president from 2005 to 2007 until she was abruptly fired. The Hill has the full story:

The financial crisis erupted last fall, and Popular recorded a $700 million loss in the fourth quarter alone. The firm had an annual loss of $1.2 billion in 2008.

In October 2008, the bank sent letters to several lawmakers, including Gutierrez, “to ensure participation” in TARP, said Teruca Rullan, senior vice president of corporate communications at Popular. “Communicating directly with members of the U.S. Congress was a prelude to secure capital in this historic financial juncture,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Hill.

Popular was no stranger to Washington’s ways. Gutierrez received close to $15,000 in campaign contributions since 1997 from the bank’s executives, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The last donation came in 2004.

Apart from the contributions to Gutierrez, bank officials have given more than $113,000 to both Democratic and Republican lawmakers since 1989, according to the center.

As the bank grew, it also hired some of the most prominent firms on K Street, spending close to  $2.9 million on lobbying since 2003.

New lobbying rules for TARP funds promulgated on September 10, 2009, state that members of Congress cannot lobby Treasury for funds out of the TARP program. Instances like Gutierrez’ (or those of Rep. Maxine Waters or Sen. Daniel Inouye) may have been the catalyst for prohibiting Congress from lobbying for specific bank bailouts.