Banks' Cash Bought Votes, Activists Say

WASHINGTON -- Public Citizen, the consumer group associated with Ralph Nader, charged Monday that House Banking Committee members who voted last month for President Bush's bank reform plan had been bought off by political action committees.

The group issued a study saying that PACs representing banks had given current committee members $3.2 million from 1987 to 1990, influencing recent votes in a subcommittee on the reform bill.

|Here to Blow the Whistle'

"We are here today to blow the whistle on a scandal in the making," said Michael Waldman, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch.

Public Citizen complained that the financial institutions subcommittee abrogated states' rights May 15 by backing interstate branching, "gutted" the Community Reinvestment Act by voting to exempt small banks, and opened the door for large corporations to own and loot banks.

Correlating Gifts, Votes

The study examined votes on the bill's consumer-oriented sections by recipients of the PAC money. Among the findings:

* On five consumer votes, the top five recipients of banking PAC cash, averaging $190,378, voted against banking interests 24% of the time.

* Subcommittee members who voted against consumers at least four out of five times had received average contributions of $118,155.

* Five lawmakers who got the least bank PAC money, averaging $35,521, voted against the industry 76% of the time.

The study said the top three recipients of banking PAC money were Reps. Stephen L. Neal, D-N.C., $257,250; Doug Barnard Jr., D-Ga. $217,112; and Carroll Hubbard Jr., D-Ky., $169,977. A staff member for Rep. Barnard took issue with the group's claims, saying the congressman had "taken positions less favorable to banks."

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