After a year of successfully blocking bank legislation, the Independent Insurance Agents of America have given up their fight for restrictions on the Comptroller of the Currency.
By backing down, the group has removed one big obstacle to capitalizing the thrift insurance fund and giving banks regulatory relief. But what do agents get by calling a truce? A little goodwill next year, perhaps.
An aide to House Banking Chairman Jim Leach said the agents will be in a better position during the next Congress to narrowly define what insurance is and who can regulate it. "The ideal world for insurance guys is to get a definition of insurance into federal law," the aide said.
Lobbyist Robert A. Rusbuldt said his group's fight for restrictions on the comptroller can wait. For now, the agents will settle for a small prize.
Attached to Rep. Leach's latest thrift fund fix/regulatory relief plan are guidelines proposed by the Comptroller's Office that give states the right to dictate licensing requirements for all agents, including bank employees.
"We believe it's a step in the right direction, albeit a minor step," Mr. Rusbuldt said. "But we still prefer a moratorium on the comptroller's ability to preempt state laws."
Barbara Timmer's Sept. 3 appointment as director of government relations for Irwindale, Calif.-based Home Savings of America took Washington lobbyists by surprise.
Any lobbying opening is big news, especially a plum job at a $51 billion-asset thrift. Nevertheless, few knew Home was shopping around.
But Ms. Timmer, who finished editing a book on the new congressional lobbying and gift rules in June, had quietly put out feelers that she was interested in a job that would let her work in Washington and California, where she has family.
When word reached Home Savings' new general counsel Madeleine Kleiner, she contacted Ms. Timmer.
"It was a very fortunate coincidence that they were looking, and I was looking," Ms. Timmer said.
Rep. Henry Gonzalez, the ranking Democrat on the House Banking Committee, has made repeated attacks on the Fed, but so far the barrage of criticism hasn't hurt the central bank's credibility on Capitol Hill.
His most recent cause: a General Accounting Office study found lax accounting controls at the Los Angeles branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The GAO warned that accounting problems are possible at branches of the Federal Reserve banks of Philadelphia and Atlanta, where similar cash inventory systems are used.
The GAO study confirmed findings of an earlier investigation Rep. Gonzalez' staff conducted of the San Francisco Fed.
In January, Rep. Gonzalez also accused the Fed of covering up waste and fraud in its check-clearing system and bilking taxpayers by subsidizing a fleet of planes to ferry checks across the country.
The Texas Democrat has made several requests for hearings on the Fed's management, but Rep. Leach has ignored them. Fellow Democrats on the panel haven't rallied to back their senior member, either. Fed spokesman Joseph R. Coyne said Fed officials testifying at recent hearings have not been questioned about any of Rep. Gonzalez's accusations.
"I don't think Henry has made a ripple," said one congressional staffer.