Capitol Hill staffers do not hold Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato in high regard, according to a recent Washingtonian survey.

The magazine's annual "Best and Worst" rankings in its July issue included a poll of 1,200 top congressional aides on their opinions of lawmakers.

The New York Republican was voted both the No. 3 "biggest windbag" and "weakest spine" in the Senate. The magazine said he didn't make the "no altar boy/girl" category only because it was swept by Democratic senators Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, Chuck Robb of Virginia, and Senate Banking's Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut. Whether Sen. D'Amato's selection as third "funniest" senator was a compliment is unclear.

Sen. D'Amato's most junior Republican colleague on Senate Banking fared much better. Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska was voted the No. 1 "freshman all-star."

House Republican Conference Chairman John A. Boehner, the point man on financial reform legislation, ranked No. 2 in the "no altar boy/girl" category on the House side.

Necessity remains the mother of invention even in the Information Age, according to banking lawyer and electronic commerce guru Thomas P. Vartanian.

At a reception of 75 banking industry insiders at the plush offices of the Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson law firm here last week, Mr. Vartanian and co-authors Robert H. Ledig and Lynn Bruneau unveiled their 653-page tome, "21st Century Money, Banking, & Commerce."

Mr. Vartanian, who is the head of Fried Frank's financial services practice, decided more than two years ago to write a definitive work on the topic because he got tired of photocopying and seeking copyright permission to use articles for a law school class he teaches at Georgetown University.

"I couldn't find any textbook that covered Internet banking and electronic commerce from the perspective of financial services and payments systems," he said, so "I decided to write the textbook myself."

The authors, however, faced a steep challenge in trying to keep up with the fast-paced changes in electronic banking. A flurry of decisions by the comptroller of the currency and other regulators last year as well as blossoming technology alliances among industry players threatened to outdate the book before it went on sale, he said.

Their solution: regularly update the text on the Internet. The first set of updates, dealing with the year-2000 problem and other issues, were scheduled to be posted at the end of last week.

And the book is selling like hotcakes on-line. sold 27 copies in June, Mr. Vartanian said.

Seeking to preserve their voting strength on the House Banking Committee, Democrats added Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. late last month.

The Virginia freshman joined the committee as its 27th Democrat to compensate for the absence of Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, D-Tex. Rep. Gonzalez did not return to Congress this year after vowing to retire and suffering from ill health, but he has refused to resign before his term ends this fall for political reasons.

Under a special deal, Rep. Goode will serve as a voting member of the committee as long as Rep. Gonzalez does not return. Otherwise, Rep. Goode would have to step aside and let Rep. Gonzalez vote.

Republicans used a similar arrangement earlier this year when the late Rep. Steven H. Schiff, R-N.M., became ill and could not serve on the House Government Reform and Judiciary committees. Rep. Schiff died of cancer in March.

The Citicorp-Travelers Group deal is a sign of just how much banking has been deregulated in the past year, according to James J. McDermott Jr., chairman and chief executive officer at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc.

Speaking at a recent Bank Administration Institute conference, Mr. McDermott marveled at seeing Traveler's Sanford I. Weill and Citicorp's John S. Reed fly to Washington for a "blessing" from the Federal Reserve Board.

A year ago, he said, he would have given the deal zero chance of winning regulatory approval. But today, Mr. McDermott said, the only people frowning on the Citi-Travelers marriage are in Congress.

"The markets get it, the regulators get it, the legislators don't."

Call her Dr. Williams.

At another BAI session, an audience member asked the following question: What would happen if, in the course of a risk-based compliance exam, an examiner and a bank disagreed on the bank's risk exposure?

Stephen M. Cross, community and consumer policy deputy at the Comptroller's Office, offered a simple answer. "The examiner would win," he said.

In explaining his reply, Mr. Cross said Acting Comptroller Julie L. Williams does not consider banks as "customers." Rather, she uses a doctor- patient analogy.

"And that sometimes means the examiner is going to have to deliver bad news," Mr. Cross said.

Wayne M. Ayers, chief economist at BankBoston, will succeed Frederick Breimyer as chairman of the American Bankers Association's Economic Advisory Committee in October. Breimyer's three-year term on the 10-member committee is nearly up, so the State Street Bank and Trust Co. chief economist must step down.

Carl Tannenbaum, an economist in Chicago with ABN Amro and its LaSalle banks, will fill the vice chairman slot to be vacated by Mr. Ayers.

The ABA's Economic Advisory Committee meets twice yearly to discuss economic trends.

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