Lawmaker Calls to the RTC Make Indelible Impressions

Thrift industry regulators used to cower when members of Congress went to bat for a constituent. Employees at the Resolution Trust Corp. just whip out a pen and take notes.

Ink flows each time an RTC staff member gets a telephone call from or on behalf of a public official. Congress, when it enacted the 1989 thrift bailout law, directed the RTC to gather and release logs of the calls each quarter. The intention was to detect efforts to influence decisions on specific cases before the agency.

The American Banker last week obtained reports for the last nine months of 1990 under a Freedom of Information Act request filed in December.

In the six months from July 1 through Dec. 31, RTC staff members fielded 166 calls from 82 members of Congress or - mostly - from their aides. (Only eight legislators called in person.) Most of the calls were intended as intercession for borrowers, bidders, and job seekers.

Those Who Phoned

The majority of the contacts came from the 435-member House of Representatives. The logs show 128 calls from the offices of 62 representatives.

The 100 senators lagged in volume, with 20 offices logging 38 calls. But senators led in per-capital contacts: a fifth made their voices heard, versus a seventh of the House.

In all, 91 of the contacts came from Democrats; 75 were from Republicans.

Two House Democrats share the "most frequent caller" honors, with 12 contacts apiece: J.J. Pickel of Texas and David Skaggs of Colorado. Spokesmen for each explained that they represent districts with many RTC properties.

In the Senate, Phil Gramm, R-Tex., led the pack, with five contacts. Sen. Pete Wilson, R-Calif., followed with four.

On Their Minds

The calls were wide-ranging. Here is a sampling:

* Rep. Pickle phoned the RTC's San Antonio office Dec. 4. "Trying to influence establishment of RTC office in Austin, Tex.," the log notes.

* Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., personally phoned a field office July 2 to talk up Peoples Bank of Tupelo, Miss., which wanted to buy two thrifts.

* House Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash., had an aide check in with the RTC legal department on Nov. 14 to discuss the pension plan at Frontier Savings and Loan in Walla Walla, Wash.

* An aide to Rep. Steve Schiff, R-N.M., called July 19 about a job applicant. "He feels people from New Mexico are not being hired by RTC."

* A bureaucrat who spoke to an aide to Sen. J. Bennett Johnson, D-La., on Oct. 19 summed it all up: "Irate constituent."

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