The Independent Bankers Association of America has launched an unusual radio lobbying campaign to publicize its opposition to the legalization of nonbank banks.

The ads, airing on local stations WMAL-AM and WTOP-AM since Jan. 21, charge that elected officials are standing by and watching while the "unelected" Comptroller of the Currency allows nonbank banks to put the small independent banks in danger of extinction.

Using language intended to turn heads on Capitol Hill, the IBAA ad calls nonbank banks "a bad name and a worse idea," and goes on to say, "They say it is a bank because it can take your deposits. But it's called a nonbank because it can't lend them out -- not for the drugstore or the barber shop -- not to help main street prosper and grow."

A nonbank bank avoids federal restrictions against interstate banking by taking demand deposits or making commercial loans, but not both. The Federal Reserve opposes nonbanks because their parent companies are acting outside its jurisdiction, but Congress has not passed legislation to close the loophole, and Comptroller C. Todd Conover has been forced to give preliminary approval to more than 160 applications nationwide. More than 200 more nonbank applications are pending, mostly from large banking networks such as Citibank and Mellon Bank. Smaller, independent banks with fewer resources have sided with the Fed.

In small towns, the nonbank bank would drain community resources by sending the money out of town and sometimes out of the state, said IBAA Associate Director Virginia Dean. The radio spot reinforces that idea with the slogan: "Where others have their branches, we have our roots."

Dean said WMAL and WTOP were selected because marketing surveys found that their regular audience included large numbers of congressional staffers and members of Congress. She would not say how much the ad campaign is costing the association, but said the ads will run until Congress acts to close the loophole.

The IBAA represents 7,900 independent banks across the country.