WASHINGTON — Although Republicans are expected to keep their majority in the House next year, bankers are keenly watching several tight races involving members of the Financial Services Committee.
A number of GOP freshmen rode the conservative wave into office two years ago, but are locked in a dead heat now in traditionally Democratic districts.
Following is a list of those races where banks are giving their attention — and money.
Ohio: James Renacci (R) vs. Betty Sutton (D)
Congressional redistricting has pitted freshman GOP Rep. James Renacci against Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton, spurring a brutal and expensive showdown of incumbents in Ohio.
Renacci, who serves as vice chairman of the House Financial Services subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit, has repeatedly spoken out in favor of the industry. He's voiced support for a Ron Paul bill to audit the Federal Reserve Board and has criticized the cap on debit card swipe fees.
"He has been very outspoken and aggressive," said Mike Van Buskirk, president and chief executive of the Ohio Bankers League. "Bankers in his congressional district love him."
This election season, commercial banks donated $105,450 to Renacci as of Oct. 1, including several regional and national institutions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Ohio-based banks KeyCorp and Huntington Bancshares gave $15,200 and $12,000 respectively, while Bank of America donated $10,250 and JPMorgan Chase contributed $10,000. In addition, two banking trade groups, the American Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America, each gave $10,000.
But Sutton, who did not report any significant banking contributions, is a well-known lawmaker who could be tough to beat. Banking industry representatives said they don't necessarily have any issues with Sutton, but she isn't involved in industry issues.
"We've always been able to work with Betty Sutton, but she's not very interested in banking. She's not on the committee," Van Buskirk said.
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, rates the race a toss-up.
Texas: Francisco "Quico" Canseco (R) vs. Pete Gallego (D)
Republican freshman Francisco "Quico" Canseco earned his banking chops after he recapitalized the failing Hondo National Bank in 1995. As board president and counsel to the bank, he helped it grow to $163 million in assets from $8 million.
As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, he's been an outspoken critic of the Dodd-Frank reform law and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and has voted in favor of several industry-friendly bills.
Canseco "has been referred to as the only person on the House Financial Services Committee with any real banking experience — something the committee sorely needs," said Eric Sandberg, president and chief executive of the Texas Bankers Association. "He is insightful, an attentive listener and a voice of reason on the committee."
Canseco received backing from Friends of Traditional Banking, a superPAC formed by bankers and state bank associations. The group is asking bankers to make individual contributions to Canseco, in addition to its formal endorsements for GOP Sens. Scott Brown and Dean Heller.
During this election season, commercial banks donated $109,316 to his campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. As of Oct. 1, International Bancshares Corp., a Texas-based bank, donated $12,000, and JPMorgan Chase donated $10,000. The ICBA and ABA have donated $11,250 and $10,000 respectively.
Democratic challenger Pete Gallego, a state lawmaker, didn't report any major donations from banks.
Sabato has rated the race a toss-up.
New York: Nan Hayworth (R) vs. Sean Maloney (D)
Described as a "Tea Party favorite" in the press, GOP freshman Rep. Nan Hayworth is facing a tough challenge this election season in her run against Democratic opponent Sean Maloney, a former advisor to President Bill Clinton.
Hayworth, a physician, has voted with her party on key industry bills, including budget reconciliation legislation that would have cut regulators' authority to wind down the biggest banks when they fail. She also voted for a bill that would replace the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's director with a five-member commission.
As a result, commercial banks are putting the brunt of their support behind Hayworth this election season, donating $61,950 as of Oct. 1. Barclays, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse were the top bank contributors, giving $18,200, $15,500 and $14,000, respectively, while JPMorgan Chase gave $11,250, and B of A donated $10,850. The ABA gave $10,000.
By comparison, Maloney received $7,750 from commercial banks, according to the nonprofit. Investment bank Goldman Sachs was the second-highest overall contributor, donating $16,250, while Citigroup gave $5,000.
In his Oct. 11 Crystal Ball report, Sabato calls New York "a ripening possibility for the Democrats," to win additional seats, pointing to the Hayworth-Maloney race as one of the party's "best opportunities" for victory. He calls the race a toss-up.
New York: Michael Grimm (R) vs. Mark Murphy (D)
Republican freshman Rep. Michael Grimm is fighting to keep his seat in New York City's most conservative district, amidst lingering allegations over fundraising activities.
Grimm, a former FBI agent who posed undercover on Wall Street, has been involved in several banking bills. He introduced a bill that would ban regulators from requiring firms that use financial derivatives for certain activities to post margin on their transactions, arguing the bill would "protect consumers from unnecessary price increases and prevents companies from wasted precious capital." He was also a co-sponsor of the bill to replace the CFPB's director with a five-person panel.
Commercial banks gave Grimm $75,500 this election season, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Goldman Sachs donated $11,800 as of Oct. 1, while New York Community Bank contributed $10,000, according to the non-profit.
Democratic Mark Murphy didn't report any significant banking contributions.
Grimm and a former fundraiser are under investigation by federal prosecutors for allegedly exceeding campaign donation limits, accepting donations in cash and taking money from illegal immigrants. Separately, a former business partner of Grimm's is alleged to have ties to organized crime.
Sabato says the race "leans Republican" right now, downplaying the vulnerability of the "scandal-plagued" Grimm in his Oct. 11 Crystal Ball report.
New Hampshire: Frank Guinta (R) vs. Carol Shea-Porter (D)
GOP freshman Rep. Frank Guinta is a relative newcomer to the House Financial Services Committee, having been named to the committee in August, but he's still drawing the support of bankers.
Affiliated with the Tea Party, Guinta has spoken out in favor of a bill to audit the Fed, and voted to replace the CFPB's director with a five-member commission.
"His record shows that he understands the issues that face the national and regional banking industries," said Christiana Thornton, president of the New Hampshire Bankers Association. "We were extremely happy in August when he was named to the House Financial Services Committee. We think his presence there and his continuing interest in issues vital to banking and the nation's economy will assure that New Hampshire's voice will be heard when banking legislation is being considered and debated in our nation's capital."
Commercial banks donated $26,950 to Guinta as of Oct. 1, and the ABA was the second largest individual contributor, giving $15,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Democratic challenger Carol Shea-Porter, a social worker and former House lawmaker, didn't report any major banking donations, according to the non-profit. She is running against Guinta for a second time, after losing a reelection bid to him in 2010.
Sabato rates the race a toss-up.
Illinois: Robert Dold (R) vs. Brad Schneider (D)
Rep. Robert Dold is yet another Republican freshman vying to keep his seat in a close race this year.
As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, Dold co-sponsored legislation to trade in CFPB's director position with a five-member commission, and introduced legislation that limits the scope of municipal advisor provisions outlined in the Dodd-Frank reform law.
Commercial banks have been a significant contributor to the Dold campaign, giving $87,469 this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Goldman Sachs gave $16,750, JPMorgan Chase gave $16,000 and Bank of America gave $13,249, as of Oct 1.
Democratic opponent Brad Schneider didn't receive any significant contributions from the industry.
Sabato says the race "leans Democrat."