Are you one of the thousands of traditional bankers frustrated by the misguided policies and regulations coming out of Washington? If so, you have about 50 days to do something about it.
Public policy isn't changed by well-crafted speeches, persuasive arguments, or cute lobbying leave-behinds. Policy is changed by elections. Elections only come around every two years and they are won and lost with money. Sad but true. Even if we think it's wrong, refusing to participate won't change a thing.
With this in mind, leaders throughout the banking industry have been preparing for this moment ever since the last election. We knew we had to create a new way for traditional bankers to rise up, join together and send a loud message to Congress: Their mistreatment of traditional banks, epitomized by the Dodd-Frank regulatory avalanche, must stop now.
We launched a grassroots initiative called Friends of Traditional Banking. Our mission is to focus the attention of every banker and everyone who is a "friend" of traditional banking on two Congressional races. We knew if we could laser-focus thousands of bankers and friends of banking (think directors, shareholders and prominent business customers) on two Congressional races, we could create a powerful political tool that would quickly get the attention of both our friends and enemies in Congress.
Our advisory council of 12 state banker association presidents and our board of community bank presidents have spent months poring over voting records and polling data and we have identified two key races for traditional banking: Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.), and Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.).
Just think what will happen when thousands of Friends of Traditional Banking each send one small donation to each of these candidates. If everyone does a little, it will add up to well over $1 million. It will have a significant impact on the outcome of each race. More importantly, it will have a huge impact on how every Congressman approaches our issues in the future.
We are asking everyone who considers themselves a friend of traditional banking to go to our website and make a contribution of any size directly to these two candidates.
By doing this through our website, we can track how many friends the traditional banking industry has and how much money they are willing to contribute to the cause. When Congressmen understand this, and realize we are going to do this again in two years, this information will change the political environment for traditional banking in Congress. So if you have already contributed to one of these candidates, go to our website and let us know so we can count you among the Friends of Traditional Banking.
We can't afford to wait, and we can't afford to fail. Congress has punched traditional bankers in the nose, and if we do nothing in the next 50 days, they will continue this abuse with impunity.
When I was a kid growing up just outside of Detroit, we could learn a lot about a kid when he got punched in the nose. Some kids retreated at the sight of their own blood and ran for cover. Those kids got beat up a lot. Other kids got mad at the sight and made sure, win or lose, that the other guy left bleeding too. From that point forward, people left them alone.
So what will traditional bankers do?
If everyone steps up and participates, we can stop the bleeding. We will even get the attention of those incumbents in the safest Republican or Democrat seats. Congressmen in safe seats repeatedly win re-election because intra-party challengers can't raise money. We can change that.
It all starts with you. We have 50 days to change the future of traditional banking in America. We have created the tool. The Independent Community Bankers of America and the American Bankers Association have both issued statements of support.
The stakes are high. If we act right now, together, we will begin the long journey back to political respect and credibility.
Howard M. Headlee is the president and CEO of the Utah Bankers Association.