The White House is preparing to appoint Vice President Dan Quayle's former campaign chairman, Indianapolis lawyer Daniel F. Evans, to what may be the most powerful part-time regulator's job in Washington: chairman of the new federal agency that oversees the $180 billion Federal Home Loan Bank system.
Evans has told thrift industry officials that he expects to get a recess appointment as chairman of the Federal Housing Finance Board (FHFB), which would allow him to take the post without confirmation by the Senate. Congressional and administration officials say the appointment is likely to be made in the next few days.
When Congress created the FHFB last year, it called for a full-time chairman to be paid $89,000 a year, but the Bush administration has decided to give Evans the post on a part-time basis. No other federal regulatory agency has a part-time chairman.
As a part-time chairman, Evans would be paid by the government only for days he works on FHFB business and would be permitted to continue to earn money as a partner in Baker & Daniels, a large Indianapolis-based law firm with an office in Washington. While Evans continues to work for the firm, Baker & Daniels would be allowed under government ethics rules to represent clients in savings and loan associations, which do business with the banks that Evans would regulate.
The FHFB was created to regulate the 12 regional Federal Home Loan Banks -- a network of government-chartered, privately owned banks that play a key role in housing finance by lending money to savings and loan associations. The regional banks were previously regulated by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, which was put out of business by Congress last year as part of the S&L cleanup.
The regional banks have made billions of dollars available for home mortgages. They also are responsible for a multimillion-dollar program established by Congress last year to see that affordable housing is available.
Evans could not be reached for comment yesterday, but he has been working on Federal Housing Finance Board matters for months and was a featured speaker at the recent San Francisco convention of the U.S. League of Savings Associations, the thrift industry's biggest lobbying group.
Making clear that he expected the recess appointment, Evans told thrift executives he plans to impose tighter control from Washington over the regional home loan banks, which have frequently been criticized for pursuing their own profit-making motives rather than promoting their stated goal of providing low-cost mortgage money to home buyers.
Evans, who previously was president of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis, is a longtime confidant of Quayle. He raised funds for Quayle's congressional campaigns in the 1970s, traveled with him when he campaigned for vice president and headed Quayle's transition team.
Well-regarded within the thrift industry, Evans is not personally criticized by Democratic leaders of the Senate Banking Committee but they are harshly critical of his refusal to serve on a full-time basis.
"In view of the difficulties confronting the housing and savings and loan industries, I believe full-time service would be appropriate even if part-time service were statutorily permissible," Senate Banking Committee Chairman Donald W. Riegle Jr. (D-Mich.) said in an August letter to the White House. Although Banking Committee members who wrote the law creating the job insist it was supposed to be full time, there apparently is nothing they can do to block the White House plan, congressional aides said.
Running a 50-person agency responsible for regulating only 12 banks "clearly is a part-time responsibility," said Alfred A. DelliBovi, undersecretary of housing and urban development, who has the job of getting the Federal Housing Finance Board underway.
"I don't think we need five full-time people," DelliBovi said. "The Federal Home Loan Bank system has worked quite well; it is quite appropriate to have a part-time board with a full-time staff."
The decision to let Evans serve part-time has been the subject of a six-month dispute between the White House and leaders of the House and Senate banking committees, who have said both that the multibillion-dollar system is too important to housing finance to be left to a part-time regulator and that Evans's part-time service is an invitation to conflicts of interest.
The White House first announced its intention to name Evans to the job last April, but it held off his nomination after Riegle warned that he would not hold confirmation hearings unless Evans agreed to serve full time.
Riegle and House Banking Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez (D-Tex.) repeatedly urged the White House to make the job full time or withdraw Evans's nomination. As a result of their opposition, none of four public members of the FHFB board has been appointed, leaving the agency to be run by the fifth member, Jack Kemp, secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Also expected to get recess appointments to part-time FHFB posts are Lawrence Costiglio, a Long Island lawyer; William C. Perkins, a Wisconsin housing official; and Marilyn R. Seyman, an Arizona investment executive.
The Consumer Federation of America, which has opposed Evans's appointment, argues that his role on the FHFB may encourage thrift industry clients to seek the services of his law firm. DelliBovi dismissed that charge: "It's unlikely that thrifts would flock to his law firm in Indianapolis."