Frank cut Stoner off. “I’m told we’re in all-out war,” Frank said, repeating the phrase he had heard the banking industry lobbyists use to describe their effort to block the CFPA. “So what do I care what you want in there?”
Stoner, a former House Democratic staff member who felt he enjoyed good relations with Frank, was taken aback.
The ABA was a formidable foe, with 370 employees occupying 41
2 floors of a Connecticut Avenue office building opposite the Mayflower Hotel. Generous in its campaign contributions, it generated the sort of analytic information that legislative staffs crave. Stoner’s boss, ABA President Edward Yingling, had strong tribal credentials on Capitol Hill. His father, Jack Yingling, had served as chief clerk — equivalent to today’s staff director — of the Senate banking committee in the 1950s and 1960s, under two Democratic chairmen. After 25 years as the ABA’s chief lobbyist and then the association’s head, Yingling knew how to take advantage of the ABA’s considerable resources.
Like Frank, Yingling also had a finger in the wind. He had conceded publicly that some reform was necessary but had maintained stiff opposition to a new agency. “When the CFPA proposal came out,” Yingling said in an interview, “there was a feeling that there was so much momentum behind it, it would be hard to fight. So somebody had to come out hard against this. We decided we should be the ones.”
But Frank had his eye on another prominent figure from the banking lobby: Camden Fine, president of the Independent Community Bankers of America, which represented 5,300 smaller banks. There were ICBA members in every congressional district. Most of them were influential citizens. As their man in Washington, Fine enjoyed respect among House members.
Frank hoped to capitalize on Fine’s standing.
The little guys
Fine was a small-town banker with his own roots in Democratic Party politics. A practical-minded Missourian with an open, friendly face, he had served on the school board and city council of Jefferson City, the state capital. When he told his father that he might like to run for Congress, he recalled, “my dad gave me some good advice: ‘Son, it’s better to be the best friend of a politician than to be the politician himself.’ ”
Most small banks belonged to Fine’s organization. Many also belonged to the larger ABA, but because the biggest banks seemed to dominate the ABA, small-town bankers often felt that their interests were pushed aside. Fine believed that the homogeneity of his membership made his job easier than Yingling’s. “To be fair,” he said, “Ed had to satisfy the behemoths on Wall Street at the same time he was trying to please the community banks. That was a very awkward position.”