TAMPA, Fla. — One of the few times banks were mentioned at the Republican National Convention came during a backstage interview Wednesday with small business owner Michelle Voorheis.
The interview, staged by the organizers and aired throughout the arena and to TV watchers on C-SPAN, focused on how she and her husband have struggled to refinance a number of loans on investment properties. Voorheis blamed President Obama for bank regulatory policies that, she said, have restricted credit.
"Let me first say that Obama did not build my business, but he's doing everything in his power to tear it down," Voorheis, a 55-year-old delegate from Michigan, said into the camera.
"Under his administration, the regulations and the restrictions that he is placing on the banks have caused them to stop lending money. So even though my husband and I have excellent credit, and we've never missed a payment, we're unsure whether we're going to be able to get the financing to continue funding our business."
Later in the evening, this reporter found Voorheis on the convention floor and asked for more details about her situation.
She explained that she and her husband, Bill, own a mix of commercial and residential properties in eastern Michigan, which have been hurt by the area's struggling economy.
The residential properties have tenants, but businesses come and go from the commercial spaces, and the rents their tenants are paying have fallen. As the appraised values of the properties have dropped, it has become harder to refinance, she said.
"If I'm making my payments, why not let me keep making my payments until I've paid for the property?" she asked.
Unclear about which particular bank-supervision policies were impacting their access to credit, Voorheis called her husband for more details. He said tighter appraisal standards and limits on the percentage of bank portfolios that can be invested in commercial real estate have made refinancing more difficult.
"The bankers aren't the bad guys," Bill Voorheis said into the phone, over the din in the convention hall. "They want to do loans."
Like his wife, Bill Voorheis laid blame for bank examination policies squarely at the feet of President Obama, saying: "He's a socialist."