When banking legislation is moving hot and heavy, Kent Brunette is usually in the thick of things.
So it's been a bit surprising to some that Mr. Brunette, the banking lobbyist for the American Association of Retired Persons, has been missing in action for the past six months.
Many bank lobbyists were relieved that the AARP lobbyist disappeared from the scene. Mr. Brunette's campaigns on behalf of America's elderly often put him at odds with the banking industry.
In the past, for example, he has championed the cause of low-cost accounts for the poor and elderly, and he played a major role in the push for Truth-in-Savings and the Expedited Funds Availability Act.
Still, before anyone gets too comfortable, Mr. Brunette wants it known that he's back and ready for action.
"People think that I've just kind of disappeared, but I'm anxious to get back into it - I arrived back at a perfect time," Mr. Brunette said.
After four months away from the office to help care for his mother before her death, Mr. Brunette said he is immersing himself in the details of Glass-Steagall legislation, searching for areas where the rights of the consumer are being overlooked.
"We'll be advocating that consumer interests are protected in any bill, and we have some general concerns with Glass-Steagall reform," said Mr. Brunette, who conceded that the new Republican majority may make his job a bit harder.
Among other things, Mr. Brunette said he will be advocating thorough disclosure of any investment products sold in banks, as well as pushing provisions mandating that investment banking products be sold in a clearly separate part of a bank's lobby.
Barbara Timmer, director for government relations for ITT Corp., isn't buying the notion that trade groups grouse about the Community Reinvestment Act simply because of paperwork burdens.
At a Women in Housing and Finance symposium last week, Ms. Timmer referred to the constant outcry against CRA as a "subtle attack on fair- lending laws," instigated for the most part by bank trade groups.
'It's an issue that trade associations use to play into some other fears that bankers have," said Ms. Timmer, whose firm owns ITT Federal Bank.
"(CRA) is really not a paperwork-heavy statute," said the former House Banking Committee general counsel. "There are going to be some members of Congress who would just as soon say we don't get into this debate. I don't think that some lawmakers would want all these wounds that have barely had time to heal to be reopened."
However, panelist Karen Thomas, regulatory counsel for the Independent Bankers Association of America, said her group was getting CRA complaints from its membership long before the banking agencies started cracking down on fair lending.
The House sergeant at arms is likely to stop issuing the photo identification cards that allow lobbyists after-hours access to the Capitol building.
According to a spokesman for the House ID office, building access cards - sometimes jokingly referred to as "Buy A Congressman" cards - will fall victim to the new openness in the House.
"The general reasoning is that lobbyists should have the same access as the general public," the spokesman said.
The cards come in handy if one needs to "stand out in the corridor and buttonhole members" during a late session, said Ron Ence, director of legislative affairs for the Independent Bankers Association of America. However, many bank lobbyists said they won't miss the cards since they never really used them anyway.
"Any time I'd go to the Capitol after hours, I'd have an appointment with a member or staffer, so I'd have prior clearance," said Mark Leggett, lobbyist for NationsBank Corp.
"I suspect it's more of this 'let's be tough on lobbyists' stuff, but it is not going to make too much difference to us," said another bank lobbyist.