North Carolina's folksy Sen. Lauch Faircloth would be the first to admit he's not a details man.
But the chairman of Senate Banking's financial institutions subcommittee doesn't need to worry about the nuances of banking legislation-he leaves those to James E. Hyland.
"I'm not the authority-Jim Hyland is the authority," the first-term Republican said in a recent speech.
As Sen. Faircloth's legislative director, Mr. Hyland will be a key player in the subcommittee's oversight of the banking agencies, regulatory relief, and reform of the Federal Home Loan Bank System. (He'll also be involved in financial modernization, but that's being tackled by the full committee.)
Fellow staffers and industry lobbyists say Mr. Hyland is well qualified to be Sen. Faircloth's point man on banking issues.
"Sen. Faircloth did very well in getting Jim on his staff," said Peter Kravitz, a lobbyist for the Independent Bankers Association of America. "Jim has a great deal of experience and is very seasoned."
Mr. Hyland went to work for Sen. Faircloth in 1995, after seven years as a Republican counsel to the House Banking Committee. Though Mr. Hyland said he would have enjoyed staying in the House after the GOP finally claimed the majority, joining Sen. Faircloth's personal staff offered a better opportunity.
"I like to work with members more closely, as opposed to being in an office toiling away," he said.
Also, because the 18-member Senate Banking Committee is one-third the size of the House panel, individual members-and their staff members-have more influence on legislation.
Joining Sen. Faircloth in particular was enticing because North Carolina, with NationsBank and First Union headquartered in Charlotte, is one of the country's top banking states. "Banking is an important matter to him, and he will be a key figure because banking is an important constituency," Mr. Hyland said.
Also, the senator's pro-business philosophy meshes well with Mr. Hyland's.
Though some believe Sen. Faircloth wouldn't know a call report from his telephone bill, Mr. Hyland insists the senator is up to speed when it's time to vote.
"Don't let the Southern accent and country boy demeanor fool you," Mr. Hyland said.
Banking lobbyists credit Mr. Hyland for keeping the senator straight on the minutiae.
"I think Faircloth may be one of the 10 brightest (lawmakers) in the Senate, but with the way he operates, he and Jim are a good mix," said American Bankers Association lobbyist Peter Blocklin.