Aug. 21, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Lobbyists Woo Allies on Swipe Fees

In meetings with the NAACP and other minority groups, financial services industry representatives argue that low-income consumers will bear the brunt of the decrease in swipe fees because it could force banks to charge higher fees for other services, such as opening accounts and using debit cards. The NAACP has requested a review of the amendment’s effect on low-income populations, but it opposes a delay in the rule’s implementation.

Nancy Zirkin, the head lobbyist at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, dismissed the banks’ argument as “ludicrous” and said it is an example of how minority organizations often get pulled into a fight in which they have little stake.

“In any lobbying effort, any legislative effort, you try to engage the unusual suspects,” she said. The NAACP and the National Education Association, the
3.2 million-member teachers’ union that endorsed the Tester legislation in March, serve on the conference’s board of directors.

On the other side of the debate, the Hispanic Strategy Group, a consulting firm that specializes in reaching out to a Latino audience, is circulating a letter to other minority groups opposing the Tester bill, according to emails obtained by Roll Call.

The firm claims to be working in partnership with the Merchants Payments Coalition, one of the largest groups representing retail, but a lobbyist for the coalition said he was not aware of the collaboration.

Bank representatives have also requested meetings with union officials.

“The unions have certainly been approached by the banks,” a source familiar with bank efforts told Roll Call. “They need Democratic support. There’s people all over town trying to yank every favor they can find.”

Both sides are also trying to win support from the National Federation of Independent Business, but thus far the organization has stayed out of the fray.

“The most notable group that has been courted but hasn’t done anything is NFIB,” said a lobbyist familiar with meetings between the NFIB and representatives of the banks and retailers. “Each side wants them and neither side can claim them.”

The largest business lobby in D.C. has also remained staunchly neutral: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents powerful banks such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. as well as major retailers, has taken no position on the fees.

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