When Sonny Bono sings "I got you, babe" these days, its not Cher he's addressing, it's the banking industry.

Now that Rep. Bono, a first-term Republican from California, is a member of the House Banking Committee, he's suddenly a celebrity with financial institutions.

Rep. Bono's situation is not unique. Banks, thrifts, and credit unions have already given the committee's 16 freshmen Republicans $425,000 for the 1996 elections - four times more than the group got in the 1994 elections. Money from financial institutions accounts for 12% of these would-be sophomores' 1996 campaign contributions.

Much of the funds came from industry lobby groups, such as the Independent Bankers' Association of America.

"When we give money, we go with people who support community banking," said Alex Maroulis-Cronmiller, the IBAA's campaign finance director. "But obviously, if someone's in power, there's going to be more money going to them. Because (16 freshmen Republicans) are on the committee, we're going to look at them very carefully."

Of those 16, only seven received money - a total of $3,500-from the IBAA for the 1994 elections. Last year, the trade group gave a total of $16,800 to 13 of those freshmen.

Bankers are most interested in giving money to sympathetic candidates who have some clout, said Floyd Stoner, a lobbyist for the American Bankers Association.

"We support a lot of people in Congress, but people who vote (on banking issues) affect how things happen," Mr. Stoner said. "Someone interested in (banking) enough to devote themselves to it, and be responsible and reasonable, is someone bankers want to support."

Many new House Banking members were virtually ignored by the banking industry until they joined the committee. For example, Rep. Frank Cremeans, R-Ohio, got $2,500 from depository institutions in 1994. Banks have already given him $62,800 for his 1996 campaign.

Mr. Duchemin writes for Medill News Service.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.