Main Street banks break away from Wall Street with their own SuperPAC
Of all interest groups trying to influence the 2012 election, you’d think the banking industry would need the least extra help. The financial sector, together with real-estate and insurance, has already donated over $207 million to candidates this election cycle--more than any other single industry. But the donations have predominantly come from the richest and most prominent players on Wall Street, with Goldman Sachs and Bain Capital topping the list.
Like most banking groups, Friends of Traditional Banking aims to fight the “massive new regulations” in Dodd-Frank. But the rationale is that the group represents “traditional banks” that weren’t responsible for bringing down the economy during the financial crisis, unlike their Wall Street counterparts that moved beyond customer-centered commercial banking to gamble with complex financial instruments.
“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,” the SuperPAC says in its mission statement, describing traditional bankers as “the ones who go to work every day to serve their communities.”
Friends of Traditional Banking is being advised by a coalition of state banking associations, which primarily represent state, local, and community banks. The group’s ambitions remain modest: It plans to focus on just two congressional races each election cycle. It also plans on relying upon small donations — from $150 to $500 — unlike many of the prominent SuperPACs that have emerged so far, which have been bankrolled by a few very wealthy individuals.
In fact, there has been growing support for smaller banks and other financial institutions as a populist tide has turned against the big Wall Street titans. But it may be harder to convince the broader public that Washington isn’t sympathetic enough to banks, whether they’re on Wall Street or Main Street. So the claim from one of the group’s advisors--the president of the Oklahoma Bankers Association--that “Congress isn’t afraid of bankers” may be a tough sell.