In the latest issue of National Journal Magazine, Peter Stone reported that, during the upcoming August recess, House and Senate members “are sure to be blasted with letters, e-mails, and visits from large and small bankers, mortgage lenders, credit card companies, and other financial services players riled up” about the movement to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).
The AFSA did commission outside polling to test the most-effective messages to use against the legislation and in mid-July presented the results at a Hill meeting that drew about a dozen lobbyists as well as aides to Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., the ranking member on the Financial Services Committee. Many of the same lobbyists held a follow-up meeting with Bachus’s aides on July 27, according to a lobbyist involved in the fight, who adds that Republicans are “helping to coordinate stakeholder opposition to the more onerous parts of the legislation.”
Much like lobbyist-run groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are “pursuing an aggressive strategy to create an image of mass public opposition to health care and clean energy reform,” the financial services industry is trying to whip up public dissent against the CFPA.
Super-lobbyist Kurt Pfotenhauer, the former top lobbyist for right-wing corporate polluter Koch Industries and the current CEO and top lobbyist of the American Land Title Association, said that “a lot of groups are planning grassroots activities during the recess because you often win or lose big legislative issues in August.” AFSA is reportedly “hitting up many trade groups for donations of $15,000 apiece for the coordinated lobbying effort.”
And just like in the health care debate, the lobbyists are being cheered on by the GOP. Bachus, for his part, has raised almost $4 million in his career from the finance, insurance, and real estate sector, far outstripping what he’s raised from any other industry.
The financial services lobby is counting on the public buying the argument that the new agency will provide only an onerous new layer of regulation or that banking regulation and consumer protection are in a holy alliance that should not be broken apart. Neither of these arguments hold much water though, and pale in comparison to the necessity of giving consumers some voice in a regulatory regime that focuses almost exclusively on whether banks are viable, even if that viability is due to ripping off consumers.