Washington's banking community was in stitches last week thanks to two phony memos parodying an exchange between House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach and House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The bogus memos, whose author remains anonymous, draw inspiration from a July 25 communique from Rep. Leach to Speaker Gingrich, in which the Iowa Republican complained of the tribulations of making peace between bankers and insurance agents.

"It's been a frustrating autumn," began the fake memo purporting to be from Rep. Leach. The spoof continued with a plan for passing legislation containing the "Baker amendment," which would allow banks and insurance companies to affiliate in most states.

The plan called for a conference in Boca Raton, Fla., where bank and insurance agent lobbyists could resolve their differences on Glass-Steagall and regulatory relief legislation.

"While they are on the 18th hole between negotiating sessions, you call the House back into emergency session to take up both bills," the memo said. "At that time, we strike Baker, literally (he is less trouble unconscious), and pass the bills.

"Thus before the forces of gridlock have scrambled out of the 19th hole to the airport, our forces of thought and vision will have prevailed."

And a phony response from Rep. Gingrich followed.

The reply assured Rep. Leach that the fight between the bankers and the insurance agents will eventually subside.

"Like the dinosaurs, and, if we stay in charge, every other species, it too will pass," said the second memo. "Be patient. As we move into the 21st century, there will be no paper. Without paper, there can be no insurance policies. Without insurance policies, there are no insurance agents. Voila."

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