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Lobbyists fret over legislation to reshape financial system

Now, Dodd's legislation has reached the Senate floor largely intact. And there's a real possibility the bill could attract populist amendments that few lawmakers would want to oppose publicly, lest they be accused of protecting Wall Street.

"There's an acknowledgment that there's a lot of crazy stuff" in play, said one banking lobbyist.

"I think the worry is the stuff coming out of left field, the whack-job amendments," said another. "It's limited only to the imagination of the senators."

So what's a lobbyist to do?

'No magic formula'

"We're working to make changes to the issues we have problems with, but we're also on guard for more extreme amendments," said Scott Talbott, chief lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable. "There's no magic formula. It's simply talking to senators -- that's the basic approach." Talbott said his group supports about 80 percent of the bill.

Said Rob Nichols, president of the Financial Services Forum: "We are pro-reform; we just want to get the balance right and avoid long-lasting negative unintended consequences that could eliminate jobs and curb economic growth."

Many lobbyists say they are counting on Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to block what the industry considers extreme or extraneous amendments.

Looking past the Senate debate, industry lobbyists say they hope Frank and the Obama administration can help remove some of the most objectionable provisions that survive the Senate.

"They've got to get this thing off the [Senate] floor and into a reasonable, behind the scenes" discussion, said one lobbyist. "Let's have a few wise fathers sit around the table in some quiet room" and work out the details.

"People are actually saying, 'Well, maybe Barney Frank will fix this in conference,' " added another. "To think Barney Frank would be the voice of reason on this."

The lobbyist chuckled at the thought.

Then he acknowledged that the anti-bank fervor on Capitol Hill may be too much to resist. "I think it's going to be job employment for me for the next decade, undoing some of this stuff," he said.

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