WASHINGTON -- Within hours of Bill Clinton's victory, the banking industry began mounting a campaign to persuade him that relaxed regulation will be crucial to reviving the nation's economy.
Bankers are eager to make their case to the President-elect well before the first days of his administration, when he is expected to unveil his economic stimulus package.
Reasons for Optimism
It appears that the Arkansas Democrat understands the bankers' concerns. He "clearly did emphasize regulatory overkill during the campaign, and he linked it to the credit crunch," said Kenneth Guenther, executive vice president of the Independent Bankers Association of America.
"That makes it a jobs issue," and therefore of paramount importance to the Clinton team, Mr. Guenther added.
That sentiment was echoed by Karen Shaw, president of the Institute of Strategy Development. "A clear priority of the Clinton administration will be economic revitalization," she said, "and it is critical that the financial industry's plan be incorporated into that bill."
The American Bankers Association, which has strong ties to Gov. Clinton, met with the governor in June and is trying to schedule a second session in the next few weeks.
"We've been talking to his staff in the campaign, and we'd like to go in now with our thoughts on what could be done in the banking industry," said Edward L. Yingling, the ABA's top lobbyist.
In the June session, Gov. Clinton "indicated he understood regulatory burden was a problem," Mr. Yingling said.
Another plus for the banking industry: The ABA's new president, William H. Brandon, is president of a community bank in Arkansas and once served as head of Gov. Clinton's economic of Gov. Clinton's economic development commission.
It is widely assumed that the President-elect's program will fall into two parts a handful of bills, including economic stimulus, including economic stimulus, that will be readied for action in the first 100 days, and longer-term efforts that can be addressed after that.
One issue that could be addressed in either package is interstate branching, the top legislative priority of Fleet Financial Group, whose chairman was the only big-break CEO to endorse Gov. Clinton.
Paul Quinn, a Washington lawyer who represents Fleet, said he hopes Gov. Clinton will take the view that the efficiencies to be gained from interstate branching would lead to increased credjt availability.
The Clinton camp is "especially concerned about getting over the hump of the credit crunch," said Mr. Quinn. "We have made the case that interstate does exactly that."
Fleet chairman Terrence Murray has discussed the issue with Gov. Clinton in recent months, though no commitment was made, Mr. Quinn said.
Rhode Island Connection
An ace in the hole for interstate advocates is Mr. Murray's long-standing friendship with Rhode Island economic consultant Ira Magaziner, a top Clinton economic adviser.
To be sure, Mr. Guenther will be pressing equally hard on the other side of the interstate branching question, arguing that industry consolidation would choke off the flow of credit through small banks to small business.
Gov. Clinton is expected to move early on several banking issues important to him: creation of a network of community development banks to provide credit in low-income communities and an overhaul of the Community Reinvestment Act to emphasize "performance over paperwork."
Both initiatives could benefit the banking industry.
CRA Compliance Mechanism
A new system of community development banks might provide a simple mechanism through which commercial