Local bankers show mean side for 2012 elections

Jen A. Miller picture

I’ve often extolled the benefits of moving your money to local credit unions and community banks.

They’ve always seemed to be the good guys of the financial industry.

Then I saw an article in American Banker about the Friends of Traditional Banking.

This isn’t some community group that meets in your town's rec hall.

It's a SuperPAC created by 11 state banking associations out to raise a lot of money and kick some political butt.

The goal, according to Howard Headlee, president and CEO of the Utah Bankers Association, is to "get more deeply involved as an industry in supporting friends and trying to replace enemies."

Who are the enemies of community banks?

Judging from its website, I’d say pretty much any Democrat who voted for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

And you know who that hurts?

Us.

Friends of Traditional Banking claims Dodd-Frank “will reduce the choices for American consumers and cost them a lot of money.”

But I don’t buy that.

I think this is all about the banks.

Setting up SuperPACs and going after “enemies” is what the too-big-to-fail bankers do, and we know how much they care about us.

I can only surmise that Friends is going to target the lawmakers most interested in protecting consumers from reckless lending and unscrupulous fees, as well as preventing another financial crisis like the one we just endured.

Two of the industry’s biggest trade groups, the American Bankers Association and Independent Community Bankers of America, weren’t asked to participate.

"I don't think they want to have any kind of control over this because we may piss some people off inside the Beltway,” Headlee told American Banker "We fully intend to."

But Cam Fine, the Community Bankers’ CEO, was quoted as saying that he was for "any PAC that is going to defeat our enemies. … I hope he raises a lot of money and hammers these guys."

Who knew our local bankers were going to go all Kanye on us?

It certainly flies in the face of the warm and cuddly image they’re always pushing on us.

While they’re cheering about their hometown advantage and community devotion in public, it seems they’re scheming behind the scenes to strip away the regulations that protect their customers.

Of course, you won’t find aggressive language like "enemy" and "hammer" on the Friends of Traditional Banking website.

Its creators are much folksier there, spouting off about their roles in the community.

Please. It reminds me of the coal industry's "clean coal" campaign. There is no such thing as clean coal.

And there’s no such thing as a local banker who supports and respects his customers if he’s part of this organization.