When independent banking lobbies in states fight interstate branching, they go up against some of the wealthiest interests in politics: regional banks.

But this year they have some help from their big brother in Washington - the Independent Bankers Association of America.

The IBAA is lending a hand, in the form of a $250,000 fund. The money, available to state groups to defray the cost of pushing bills to "opt out" of interstate banking, is distributed on a matching basis to a maximum of $25,000

According to IBAA lobbying chief Ron Ence, $172,500 of the fund has already been spoken for, including $25,000 each for independent bank groups in Texas, New Mexico, Missouri, Colorado, and Kansas. The Community Bankers Association of Oklahoma will receive $12,500 to help pay for its lobbyist. Nebraska will get $15,000, Montana will get $10,000.

"We have taken a very strong position for the right of states to pursue an opt-out strategy," Mr. Ence said. "It's us putting our money where our mouth is."

IBAA executive vice president Kenneth Guenther said it's only the second time in the national group's history that such a fund was made available to state bank groups. The first was when some fought their state's inclusion in regional interstate banking compacts in the 1980s.

"We're a states' rights organization," Mr. Guenther said. "We do it because these state groups are fighting a well-heeled big-bank lobby."

The American Bankers Association is not helping state groups financially, according to spokesman Charlotte Birch.

"One condition of support that we put on (Riegle-Neal) was that the law allow states to decide for themselves," Ms. Birch said. "Now they are doing that. We don't lobby state issues."

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