Paul Finds Traction

Regardless of whether Congress ultimately passes Rep. Ron Paul's measure to open the Federal Reserve's books to an audit, the Texas Republican wins the award for legislative tenacity.

Before last week's head-turning passage of Paul's amendment by the House Financial Services Committee, the libertarian former presidential hopeful had made a habit of proposing beat-downs of the central bank, which typically garnered little congressional support.

As early as 1983, Paul proposed increased transparency at the Fed, and attracted 18 co-sponsors.

Paul subsequently introduced measures either to require greater central bank disclosure — or abolish the central bank — in 1999, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007. But none of those efforts ever attracted more than four co-sponsors.

Fast forward to 2009, when the Fed's political support — or lack thereof — rivals that of Citigroup. Paul's amendment, now attached to Chairman Barney Frank's regulatory reform overhaul, has a whopping 313 co-sponsors. Frank — who opposes the amendment — is grappling with how to remove the measure before the bill heads to the floor.

Ironically, Paul's provision would have gone nowhere without Frank. The Massachusetts Democrat pointed out how Paul's own party — while in the majority — tried to marginalize him by denying him a subcommittee chairmanship in 2003.

"I do want to emphasize … being the first [chairman] in 26 years to give the gentleman from Texas a chance to offer his legislation," Frank said Thursday, when the committee passed the measure 43 to 26.

When Paul was denied his chairmanship, Frank added: "He said to me quite preciously at that time, 'I guess I'll have to wait for you to be chairman to get anywhere on this.' Well, I am the chairman and you are getting something."

B of A in a Nutshell

Talk about awkward.

A hearing before the House Financial Services panel Tuesday was a perfect demonstration of the staffing problems that have plagued Bank of America Corp. lately. Lawmakers pushed B of A director Charles Gifford to confirm whether Brian Moynihan, B of A's president of global consumer, small-business and card services, is in line to succeed Ken Lewis as chief executive.

B of A has been careful to avoid naming potential CEO candidates but the situation was all the more dicey on Tuesday because Moynihan happened to be sitting right next to Gifford.

"He is a very talented executive at Bank of America," Gifford said.

Compounding the weirdness at the witness table was testimony from Timothy Mayopoulos, the general counsel B of A fired nine days after he expressed doubt that the bank could walk away from its deal to buy Merrill Lynch.

"I was stunned," Mayopoulos said of his dismissal.

Moynihan again found himself in an uncomfortable position. He initially succeeded Mayopoulos as B of A's general counsel and said he did not know the rationale behind his termination.

"I do believe he was capable of doing the job," Moynihan said.

What Do You Think?

Bankers call it a customer service. Regulators call it a credit risk. But what do consumers think of overdraft protection? The Onion provided some insight last week, sort of. On the heels of the Fed's Nov. 12 rule banning overdraft fees without customer permission, the satirical newspaper ran man-on-the-street opinions about life without the charges.

Marc Mercer, one respondent to the make-believe poll, said he was good with the Fed rule "as long as I still get penalized for using my credit cards."

Commercial construction estimator Kelly Jolicouer said she would still pay the fees as a courtesy to her bank. "I usually send them a few bucks when I go over, anyway, just for their trouble."

Ray Mason, unemployed, summed up the rule's impact this way: "I guess banks will just have to make money the old-fashioned way — selling bad mortgages and causing a global financial collapse."

Moving On ...

Darlene Rosenkoetter, a lobbyist for the Consumer Bankers Association, has left the trade group for a job on Capitol Hill working as a staffer for Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, a member of the Senate Banking Committee.

Chuck Jones has left his lobbying position with Timmons & Co. Inc. for one with the New York Stock Exchange, where he is working on issues including financial regulatory reform.

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