K Street Files: Bankers Brigade

Posted September 19, 2008 at 6:18pm

As the ripples of the Wall Street explosion continue to reverberate, K Street is mounting an onslaught of lobbying to try to get things into the “financial rescue package.”

[IMGCAP(1)]The banking industry, for one, has come out in full force. The Independent Community Bankers of America is mounting a full-on Capitol Hill offensive, pushing for several provisions to be included in the expected financial rescue package.

The biggest item on their wish list: urging lawmakers to revisit the decision by the Treasury Department not to pay out common and preferred stocks of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae following the government takeover of the mortgage giants. The bankers’ association is pushing for the government to buy back the stock from community banks at its original purchase price.

“If they bought it at what our banks paid for it, [the banks] would not suffer losses,” said Steve Verdier, director of Congressional relations for ICBA. “If they are trying to maintain lending in communities, it is one thing they can do. This is a problem that Treasury created in the first place.”

The association reports that community banks are losing a quarter or even half of the year’s earnings because the government effectively wiped out the stock.

The chances of it getting included in the package appear to be shaky at best.

“It’s an incredible lift,” one financial services lobbyist said. “I think a lot of noise will be made to try to do something on the Hill, but in terms of the conservatorship, it was written pretty rock solid.”

That’s not all the banks are hoping to get Congress to agree to. In fact, both the community bankers and the American Bankers Association have homed in on the government’s statement that it will back money market mutual funds.

The ABA, which sent a letter Friday to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, is worried about how that move could make mutual funds more attractive to consumers because of their higher interest rates.

“Today’s action will undermine the role of banks during this current crisis and has the potential to have an extremely negative impact in the future,” ABA President and CEO Edward Yingling wrote.

The community bankers haven’t come out against the Treasury propping up the mutual fund industry. Instead, they’re pushing for mutual funds to be

required to pay as much to the Treasury as banks do to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in order to keep the playing field level.

Hat in Hand. The stock market tumble may have shaved millions off the value of Members’ personal bank accounts, but the news appears to have made hardly a dent in money-raising circles, as lawmakers enter the final week of fundraisers before heading back to their districts.

Congressional Democrats have more than 90 fundraisers scheduled for this week, while Republicans have more than 80, according to recent Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee fundraising lists.

“I’ve not noticed the political agenda to be impacting participation,” said Jade West of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors. “If anything, it encourages it. The focus on policy and politics re-emphasizes why we are trying to re-elect the candidates that will vote for things and enact the remedies that we think are best.”

K Street Moves. Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti has lured Jonathan Hoganson, a former senior aide to Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), away from the Information Technology Industry Council, where he was director of government relations. Hoganson, who served as Emanuel’s legislative director and policy director at the House Democratic Caucus, said he joined the firm because he wanted to work on a broad portfolio of issues, including energy, technology and transportation. “It was a good fit,” he said. “I fit in well with everyone here.”

• American Defense International Inc. has brought in three new lobbying soldiers. David Myers, former director of Congressional affairs in the Washington, D.C., office of SAP America, is joining as vice president of government affairs. On the Hill, he worked for GOP Sens. Pete Domenici (N.M.) and Alfonse D’Amato (N.Y.).

Michelle Vogel, who will be senior vice president for health affairs at the firm, joined from her own firm, Washington Strategic Consulting. She is also a founder of the Alliance for Plasma Therapies.

And Christin Engelhardt, was previously worked as the director of patient advocacy and professional programs at the Aplastic Anemia & MDS Foundation, will be director for health affairs in the firm’s health division.

• Mark Schuermann, senior director for federal government affairs at Sallie Mae, is joining the Financial Services Forum as senior vice president for government relations.

• Brian Kennedy, a former spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), is joining FD Dittus Communications as a vice president and managing director. He will continue to serve as a spokesman for the Institute for Energy Research.

• Thomas Dower, most recently deputy chief of staff for Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), is joining Lighthouse Consulting Group as vice president.

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