PAC Money Flows To Debit Bill Sponsors

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WASHINGTON – With the toughest campaign of his career on tap, Montana Senator Jon Tester collected tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from credit unions, banks and other interests before the Senate Banking Committee, just days before Tester lent his name as co-sponsor of a bill to delay the controversial rule cutting debit fees.

CUNA, which had contributed $1,000 to the freshman Democrat in January, gave another $2,500 Feb. 25 – two weeks before the introduction of the bill – and NAFCU contributed $2,500 to Tester on Feb. 8, according to records submitted to the Federal Election Commission Friday. Tester, the bill’s chief sponsor, also received contributions from MasterCard ($2,000), Discover Financial ($1,000), American Express ($1,000) and US Bancorp ($500), among others.

Tester, who faces a tough reelection battle versus Republican Denny Rehberg in his overwhelmingly Republican state, was among several key bill sponsors in the Senate and House to benefit from their support of the debit rule delay. The Tester race, in the country’s least populous state, is expected to be one of the highest profile contests in the country as control of the Senate lies in the balance. The first-term Senator acknowledged as much in a speech last week to Democratic supporters. “It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be expensive,” Tester told about 500 attendees at the state Democratic Party’s annual dinner and fundraiser.

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, another main sponsor, received major contributions from the American Bankers Association, the Independent Community Bankers Association, American Express, Discover Financial, HSBC and others. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, another co-sponsor, received financial support from CUNA ($1,000), US Bancorp and others with interest in the bill.

And Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, chief sponsor of the House bill to delay the interchange rule, received PAC contributions from the Financial Services Roundtable, the ABA, ICBA, CitiGroup, Bank of America, Visa and Discover Financial, FEC records show.

These financial interests are among the biggest campaign contributors in Congress. Both the ABA and CUNA are among the top 15 contributors.

But perhaps the biggest recipients of financial services PAC contributions in recent weeks was an obscure leadership PAC, known as the Growth and Prosperity PAC, which is operated by Alabama Rep. Spencer Bachus, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which not only will arbitrate the House bill on interchange, but also other efforts to alleviate provisions of last year’s Wall Street reform bill, known as Dodd-Frank, as well efforts to end mortgage foreclosure programs, reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and oversee the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Bachus’ PAC, which is separate from his personal campaign PAC, received contributions in recent weeks from CUNA ($5,000), the ABA ($5,000), the ICBA ($5,000), Citigroup ($5,000), Financial Services Roundtable ($5,000), AmericanExpress ($5,000) and others.


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