Super PAC profile: State bankers target lawmakers over Dodd Frank law


A group of state-based banking associations have launched a new Super PAC–known as "Friends of Traditional Banking"–to target lawmakers who they consider hostile or friendly to their concerns: namely, the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law.

"Everyone knows that traditional banks didn't cause the economic crisis, but that didn't stop Congress from heaping massive new regulations on them and their customers," reads the group's website. "The Dodd-Frank regulatory reform act…was supposed to target Wall Street abuses. It didn't. Instead it aimed squarely at traditional banks and their customers. When it all shakes out, it will reduce the choices for American consumers and cost them a lot of money."

As first reported on the American Bankers Association (ABA) website, the new group hopes to raise about $1 million in small contributions and then identify two congressional races in which they can concentrate their financial firepower to support or defeat a candidate. "We will support our friends in Congress and defeat our enemies," the PAC's website says. This is a relatively narrow goal for a super PAC, which, as opposed to a traditional PAC, is permitted to raise unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations and also take contributions from groups that do not have disclose their donors, such as organizations that have 501(c)4 tax exempt status. And the new group appears to be unusual in that most super PACs tend to be organized to support specific candidates or liberal or conservative ideologies, rather than having such a highly specific focus on a single piece of legislation affecting a particular industry.

Howard  Headlee, president of the Utah Bankers Association, who is leading the effort, was not available for comment at the time of this posting. However, he told the ABA's American Banker that the group has not recruited national trade associations such as the ABA and the Independent Community Bankers Association (ICBA) because the group may "piss some people off inside the Beltway." Headlee also told the group that he hoped to collect contributions from shareholders and customers.

The Utah Bankers Association's membership list includes affiliates of such national instiutions as JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, which were major beneficiaries of federal bank rescue programs during the 2008 financial crisis.

Other state bankers associations that are participating in the new PAC include New Jersey, Colorado, Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma, Vermont, Michigan, Minnesota, and Idaho. Many of these groups have participated in meetings with federal agencies about implementation of the Dodd-Frank law. Headlee, for example, is listed as attending this meeting last October with Raj Date, a high level official at the Treasury Department's newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This general meeting about the law at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) drew several of the groups, including the Utah Bankers Association. 

The banking industry already is the source of massive amounts of campaign money in political campaigns. Its traditional PACs and executives gave $13.6 million to federal candidates this election cycle alone, 70 percent of that to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The ABA's PAC  has distributed more than $1 million so far this election cycle, and gave out $3 million in the last elections.