The military-industrial complex, which has been ordered to beat guns into plowshares, apparently has found a way to market some of its most advanced technology to the banking industry.
I call your attention to the stealth spokesman, a super secret unveiled by the White House on July 15 during a media event called to promote President Clinton's community development lending program.
NationsBank chairman Hugh McColl stepped up to the podium following the President's speech and revealed to the world for the first time that he is the industry's official mouthpiece. Then, on behalf of bankers everywhere, he endorsed the lending plan, which is about as bankfriendly as John Dillinger.
Spokesman for Whom?
Naturally, other claimants to that lofty title were "shocked" and "surprised," and they groused that Mr. McColl is spokesman for NationsBank-period.
Furthermore, they contended that he had shafted them big-time by endorsing the President's community lending and Community Reinvestment Act plans.
The cynics further charged that Mr. McColl would endorse any half-baked Clinton idea in return for the White House's support for interstate branching legislation.
"McColl is the kissy-kissy of interstate," sneered one banker.
Mr. McColl no doubt enjoys these whiney plaints from his rivals. His claim to be the industry's spokesman was an obvious taunt aimed at trade groups that still pretend that bankers are capable of finding common ground on important issues.
The unity myth was foisted upon the industry by the 101st Congress which said, disingenuously, that it had failed to consider controversial reform legislation, like eliminating Glass-Steagall, because bankers hadn't spoken to them with one voice.
(The actual reason for the inaction was a reluctance to give bankers a present and try to explain it to other constituents.)
Ever since, some trade groups have been obsessed with achieving some form of unity in their ranks. Their effors have failed miserably, primarily because there are at least four banking industries, if not more.
Mr. McColl realizes this. In fact, he's been on a tirade about all-inclusive trade groups since January of last year.
At that time, the blustery banker threatened to quit the American Bankers Association and 11 other state and national organizations if they didn't disregard the wishes of their small-bank members and lobby for interstate branching in 1992.
Later that year, Mr. McColl and five other big bank CEO's formed a splinter group of the ABA to lobby for interstate branching.
Right in Character
There's nothing surprising or out-of-character, then, in Mr. McColl's going his own way.
In fact, it's hard not to admire the gift he has for ingratiating himself with the high and mighty to press his agenda.
President Clinton burned the midnight oil with Mr. McColl talking about the Community Reinvestment Act. No muckety-mucks from the ABA or the Independent Bankers of America were present.
This remarkable access is due in part for Mr. McColl's support during his campaign, even though it came in the 11th hour.
The banker is also buddies with H. Ross Perot, with whom he does business. He supported Mr. Perot for President until Perot dropped out.
Before that, Mr. McColl was a regular guest at the Bush White House when banking matters were discussed. (He was stricken from the list when he began supporting Mr. Perot.)
Bankers opposed to interstate branching take succor in the fact that a President alone can't enact such legislation. It takes a Congress, and they claim that McColl has little currency on Capitol Hill.
Don't be so sure. NationsBank was a generous contributor to Congressional candidates in 1992. Mr. McColl no doubt has plenty of capital at that end of Pennsylvania Avenue as well.