Banking issues were not on the agenda last week at the Republican National Convention in San Diego, but the industry was out in force to make friends in high places.
Banks contributed mightily to the $12 million in corporate largess that funded the soirees, barbecues, and golf tournaments that made the four-day gathering a blast for Republicans.
One of the more high-powered events was a brunch thrown last Wednesday by the Mortgage Bankers Association of America in honor of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee at the Loews Coronado Hotel.
More than 250 people, including 20 senators, showed up to sip mimosas and dine on omelettes. VIPs included the committee's chairman, New York Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato and his Senate colleagues Don Nickles of Oklahoma, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, Robert Bennett of Utah, and Connie Mack of Florida.
"It was sort of a pep rally to show support for Sen. D'Amato and the campaign committee," said Mike Ferrell, vice president of the trade group.
Under Sen. D'Amato's leadership, the committee has raised $65 million for Republican Senate candidates.
The mortgage bankers group also sponsored a reception for Sen. Christopher Bond of Missouri, chairman of the Small Business Committee and a member of the banking committee.
Mr. Ferrell said his and other trade groups are willing to pay for the events, because it gives them a chance to meet with lawmakers and build goodwill with the political parties.
"Like any other group, we want to participate in the political process," he said.
The association also will sponsor a reception for the Democratic National Senatorial Campaign Committee next week in Chicago.
Helping Republicans in their effort to project a new, compassionate image, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the mortgage bankers' group were among almost a dozen sponsors of a Habitat for Humanity project to construct a three-bedroom, 1,200 square-foot house in one of eastern San Diego's low-income neighborhoods.
Before a couple of hundred party faithful and a press entourage last Wednesday, House Speaker Newt Gingrich handed over the keys to the house's owners.
But not every event was high-profile.
Visa and Northwest Airlines treated Republican delegates from Tennessee, Michigan, and Minnesota to "Party '96," a private concert by former Beach Boy Mike Love and his California Beach Band. Delegates from the three states danced to old Beach Boy tunes such as "Little Deuce Coupe" and "Fun, Fun, Fun" while downing free beer, soda, and gourmet pizza.
A Visa spokesman said the bank card association co-sponsored the event at Northwest's request because of their joint involvement in a cobranded credit card.
Northwest invited the Tennessee, Michigan, and Minnesota delegates because the airline has hubs in Memphis, Detroit, and Minneapolis.
Chase Manhattan Corp. and the Public Securities Association threw a private bash for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer. Several hundred people crammed into Dick's Last Resort, a bar and restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter, to honor the Texas lawmaker, stuff themselves with Texas barbecue, and tap their toes to the music of a country and western band.
One of the biggest corporate contributors was BankAmerica Corp., which donated $150,000 to the San Diego Host Committee, the nonpartisan group of local community leaders who arranged many activities and recruited thousands of volunteers to help run the convention.
The San Francisco-based bank also put in an extra $30,000 to sponsor its own events - including a golf tournament for the senatorial campaign committee and receptions for several lawmakers.
BankAmerica will provide similar support to the Democratic National Convention next week in Chicago, said a spokeswoman, Lisa Margolin-Feher.
"The conventions are being held in two cities that are very important to us," she said.
San Diego is a major market for BankAmerica's California operation, and the company's 1994 acquisition of Continental Bank Corp. gave it a big presence in Chicago.
Republicans had no shortage of corporate-funded golf outings. Helping them get to the links were the American Bankers Association, Bankers Trust New York Corp., J.P. Morgan & Co., NationsBank Corp., and Household International Inc.
The ABA and its co-sponsors ponied up $30,000 to host 300 golfers on behalf of the Republican National Congressional Campaign Committee. ABA chairman James M. Culberson Jr. said sponsoring convention events gives the trade group "a chance to get involved" with the parties' nomination process without endorsing any candidates.
"We wanted to make a presence and we chose the golf outing rather than any politically oriented events," Mr. Culberson said.
The ABA also will also take Democratic convention- goers to the links next week.
Household International, First Union Corp., the Securities Industry Association, and other big financial interests hosted a low-key reception for House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach on Aug. 13 at Heritage Park in San Diego's Old Town section.
Showing up to chat over drinks and hors d'oeuvres were Reps. Marge Roukema of New Jersey and Jon Fox of Pennsylvania and more than a dozen lobbyists including Cory Stroup of Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. and Eric Mondres of America's Community Bankers.