Texas banking groups are using ties to critical House members in an attempt to block a late-hour vote on financial reform legislation.
In an Oct. 30 letter, the Texas Bankers Association, the Independent Bankers Association of Texas, and the Texas Savings and Community Bankers Association, along with realty and construction trade groups, urged home- state lawmaker Martin Frost to vote against the bill if it reaches the powerful Rules Committee this year.
Sources said Rep. Frost is likely to join Republican Reps. David Dreier and John Linder to form a bloc of senior Rules Committee members opposing the bill. The panel's chairman, Rep. Gerald Solomon, is expected to support the bill.
So far, the Texas groups have been effective. Five of the six Texans on the Banking and Commerce committees have opposed the legislation.
The industry groups hope to take advantage of their GOP leadership connections in the coming weeks. Final say over bringing the bill to the floor lies with Speaker Newt Gingrich and two Texans-Majority Leader Richard Armey and Majority Whip Tom Delay.
"Delay doesn't want a bill on the floor until absolute agreement has been reached between all parties," said Christopher L. Williston, executive director of the Independent Bankers Association of Texas. "Though Rep. Armey wants the bill to advance, we want to convince him it will be a battle."
Chase Manhattan Corp. chairman Walter V. Shipley helped Senate Republicans raise $6 million for their third annual Majority Dinner, which takes place tonight at the Sheraton-Washington Hotel.
The end-of-the-year bash for the National Republican Senatorial Committee will feature speeches by Majority Leader Trent Lott, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the NRSC chairman, and Sen. Chuck Hagel, a freshman on the Banking Committee.
As one of the dinner's vice chairmen, Mr. Shipley was asked to raise roughly $250,000 from industry contacts and individuals.
American Bankers Association lobbyist Peter Blocklin, a vice chairman last year, recalled the money drive as an exhausting experience. "You have to go after everything that moves," he said. "It's the kind of thing you do only once."
GOP officials say they expect as many as 2,500 to attend the dinner, which for most attendees requires a $1,500 minimum contribution.
Many banking organizations, however, appear to have complimentary tickets to the event due to their membership in other GOP organizations such as the Republican Senate Council.
America's Community Bankers is sending four people, while the ABA and the Independent Bankers Association of America are sending two each.
Banking lobbyists last week were buzzing that Merrill Lynch & Co. had hired as many as nine outside lobbying firms in recent weeks to help push financial reform legislation through Congress this year.
But Merrill Lynch lobbyist Bruce Thompson laughed when informed of the rumor. He insisted that the securities giant, along with the Financial Services Council, has hired one outside firm-Bolland & Madigan.
"Bolland & Madigan has a lot of Commerce Committee experience and we wanted their help for the panel's vote last week," Mr. Thompson said.
The firm is headed by lobbyist Michael Bolland, a former Commerce Committee staffer. Mr. Bolland also was an aide to Sen. Lott, when the Mississippi lawmaker was House minority whip.