Like many bankers, Michael Clementz almost always votes Republican.
But since Congress passed a controversial credit union bill in August, the president and chief executive officer of $180 million-asset North Sound Bank in Poulsbo, Wash., has been campaigning for a Democrat, Jay R. Inslee, to unseat Republican Rick White.
Why is Mr. Clementz so eager to oust Rep. White?
In 1996, Rep. White supported legislation that forced banks to pay a portion of the interest on bonds for the savings and loan bailout. Last April he voted to expand credit union fields of membership. Then in May, Rep. White voted for a financial modernization bill that community banks have opposed.
"I call it three strikes and you're out," Mr. Clementz said.
He is not the only community banker seeking to punish members of Congress. Angered by recent votes-particularly on the credit union bill- some community bankers and state bank associations are either withdrawing financial support for incumbents or are campaigning to throw them out.
Take Candace Wiest, president and chief operating officer of $70 million-asset Inland Empire National Bank in Riverside, Calif. For three years, she has attended fundraisers for her congressman, Republican Ken Calvert. But when she got her invitation this year, she sent back a not-so- polite response.
"I said I wasn't going because I felt small bankers had been rolled and I didn't want to support someone that refused to hear our side," Ms. Wiest said.
Mr. Clementz has gone a step further. Never very politically active, he recently played host to a fundraiser for Mr. Inslee, who served a term in Congress but was not reelected in 1994. Mr. Clementz is also urging employees to remember the credit union issue when voting in November.
"I've told them that they should be very concerned about the value of this franchise and when they go to the polls they should be thinking about their jobs and the economy," Mr. Clementz said.
Trade associations are also becoming more selective about whom they support.
Daryll Lund, executive vice president of the Community Bankers of Wisconsin, said his group has typically endorsed Republican candidates. But during the next two months, the association plans more face-to-face meetings with candidates, asking pointed questions on community bank issues.
"One of the results of the credit union bill and HR 10"-the pending financial reform bill - "is that we are now looking at individual candidates, not just the party they represent," said Mr. Lund.
Of course, in some states, community bankers do not have much of a choice. In Georgia, for example, only two of the 11 House seats are being contested in November, said Julian C. Hester, chief executive officer of the Community Bankers Association of Georgia.
"A lot of people are real mad and real upset, but we all know that those folks are going to be in there for two more years," Mr. Hester said. "Next election I think you'll see even more bankers active in politics."
Other bankers were more philosophical. "This is not the end; it's part of the journey," said Albert C. Kelly, president and chief executive officer of Spiritbank, Bristow, Okla.
Mr. Kelly said he will continue contributing to the campaign of his congressman, second-term Republican Tom Coburn. However, he said, he has not responded to solicitations from the lawmaker most bankers blame for their problems this year: House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
"Everything I've gotten from him, I've thrown away," Mr. Kelly said.