From Politics to Banking

Terence McAuliffe tingles every time he sees a presidential motorcade scream by his downtown office two blocks from the White House.

"I sit here misty-eyed," said Mr. McAuliffe, 34, chairman at Federal City National Bank and a national fund-raiser for presidential hopeful Richard Gephardt in 1988. "I'm dying to get back [into politics]."

In recent years, more than a few former presidential advisers have made the transition to bank boardrooms in Washington. Some, like Mr. McAuliffe, would make the return trip in a second. But most have found their political connections to be a valuable source of business.

"We [finance] presidential campaigns," said Barbara D. Blum, chairman and chief executive officer of $57 million-asset Adams National Bank. "It is good banking business."

During the 1988 campaign, Adams National worked with Sen. Paul Simon and Jesse Jackson. Ms. Blum, 52, was deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Carter administration from 1976 to 1981.

High-Profile Case

Notorious among those who made the leap from politics to banking is Clark M. Clifford, a high-flying power broker who recently resigned as chairman of First American Bankshares Inc. amid allegations that the Washington-based bank was secretly controlled by scandal-plagued Bank of Credit and Commerce International. Mr. Clifford, 84, served as adviser to several Democratic presidents.

Another among the unsuccessful was Luther H. Hodges, who retired from $1.6 billion-asset National Bank of Washington shortly before it failed a year ago. Mr. Hodges was under secretary for Commerce under President Carter.

But for the most part, expatriates from the public sector are still toiling in the trenches.

They are facing the same harsh conditions as those with industry pedigrees - and coming away with their share of successes.

Ms. Blum brought an array of political and social concerns to the CEO's suite at Adams National, one of a handful of banks in the country owned by women.

Indeed, in front of Adams National in Washington's financial district stands a life-size sculpture of a nude woman whose hands are raised high in the air. Ms. Blum said the work is entitled "Empowered."

"We tend to be the bankers to organizations that take a leadership role in the women's movement, in the environmental movement, and in the human-rights movement," she said.

Ms. Blum uses her political connections to drum up business. In the presidential race of 1984, she was the banker for Jesse Jackson, Fritz Mondale, and Gary Hart.

Last year, Adams National lost $796,000 in 1990. But the bank should break even or post a small loss this year, said Ms. Blum, who signed on with Adams National after Mr. Carter was defeated in 1980.

An Early Start

At the age of 23, Federal City's Mr. McAuliffe was deputy treasurer and director of fundraising for the 1980 presidential campaign at the Democratic National Committee and the Carter/Mondale Presidential Campaign Committee.

It's easy to see why. A backslapper with a booming voice, Mr. McAuliffe raised more than $4 million for presidential hopefuls in 1979.

But banking hasn't been nearly as easy as fund-raising. Mr. McAuliffe joined Federal City as a director in 1986 when the bank was in the start-up phase. But it ran into problems, losing $513,000 in 1986, $471,000 in 1987, and $555,000 in 1988.

Federal City turned its first annual profit in 1989, chalking up $280,000, and it has since posted steady returns.

The reasons for Federal City's success lie partly in its connections. While the bank targets small business near Capitol Hill, it has also attracted labor unions, political action accounts, and "a lot of Democratic-party-type accounts," Mr. McAuliffe said.

The list of banker/politicians continues. Another is Richard V. Allen, chairman of $38 million-asset Credit International Bank. Mr. Allen, age, was former President Reagan's foreign policy director.

But among the breed, 44-year-old Century National Bank chairman Joseph S. Bracewell may have had the shortest stint in government.

In September 1980, Mr. Bracewell was appointed by President Carter as a consultant to the new Solar Energy and Energy Conservation Bank. The bank was set up to underwrite low-interest loans for homes designed to save energy.

But then in November, Mr. Carter lost the election.

"I had about a four-month stint in that job," Mr. Bracewell said. "I had my official swearing in on January 18, and cleaned out my desk the next day."

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