Obama's Rebuttal

It seems that even President Obama could not avoid the ads that claimed the local butcher and baker would be harmed by the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

On Friday, the president met with consumers, regulators and lawmakers to push for support of the agency, and he made a special point of rebutting the ads, which claimed that anyone who offered credit to a customer would be regulated by the new agency.

"A lot of the banks and big financial firms don't like the idea of a consumer agency very much," he said after the meeting. "In fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is spending millions on an ad campaign to kill it. You might have seen some of these ads — the ones that claim that local butchers and other small businesses somehow will be harmed by this agency. This is, of course, completely false — and we've made clear that only businesses that offer financial services would be affected by this agency. I don't know how many of your butchers are offering financial services."

The last line won him some laughter from the assembled press and participants, but Obama was just getting wound up.

"Since they're worried they may not be able to kill this agency, they're trying their hardest to weaken it — by asking for exemptions from this agency's rules and enforcement, by fighting to keep open every gap and loophole they can find," he said.

Though there appears to be some fear over how strong the agency will be after the House Financial Services Committee votes on its founding legislation this week, Obama declared himself "confident we're going to get it done. We can't let special interests win this fight."

Getting in Shape

Of course, if Congress is going to pass a bill, the president may want his star player up on Capitol Hill, not on the basketball court.

As lawmakers prepared to vote on legislation to create the consumer protection agency and regulate derivatives, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner relaxed last week with a basketball game with Obama.

Geithner was among 15 guests, who included Cabinet officials and lawmakers, invited to play basketball at the White House Thursday night. The group played 10 games over about two hours.

For the record, none of the lawmakers was from the House Financial Services Committee, which may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Nothing ruins a game of basketball faster than discussing the merits of over-the-counter derivatives.

Lobbying Beef-Up

The Mortgage Bankers Association announced additions to its lobbying shop last week.

The trade group hired Tom Koonce, who will start Nov. 2 as vice president of legislative affairs. He is to lead MBA's day-to-day lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill and report to Steve O'Connor, the association's senior vice president of government affairs.

Koonce comes to MBA from the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, where he was an assistant vice president of federal government affairs.

The MBA hired also another Democratic lobbyist — Brad Cheney — who was chief of staff to Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., a member of the House Financial Services Committee who has been especially critical of government bailouts of the financial sector.

The trade group also promoted Pace Bradshaw, who lobbies Senate Republicans, to director of government relations. He joined the association in 2006 and had previously worked for former Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H.

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