Boehner vs. Frank
Last week's American Bankers Association conference gave Democrats plenty of ammunition with which to tar Republicans as Wall Street's accomplices, especially after Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner channeled Clint Eastwood and referred to congressional aides as "little punk staffers."
Speaking to the group about lobbying against Sen. Chris Dodd's regulatory reform bill, Boehner told the bankers, "Don't let those little punk staffers take advantage of you, and stand up for yourselves."
Rushing to the defense of congressional staff members, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank sent a letter urging Boehner to apologize and calling the remark an "inaccurate cheap shot."
"You are free to defend that industry and work with them to try to defeat those regulations," Frank wrote. "But picking on members of the staff is unworthy of you."
Boehner's comments seemed to have a ripple effect, drawing fire from Lawrence Summers, a former Treasury Secretary and now the director of the White House's National Economic Council.
"I do not think of the people who work on this project as 'little punk staffers,' " Summers told reporters at the National Press Club. "I do not think that those who want to address these issues are 'little punk staffers' who need to be stood up to."
It also drew mockery from Heather Booth, the director of Americans for Financial Reform, who sarcastically wrote on the Huffington Post that it was "very polite of Boehner to give that warning, as there is a real danger of bankers being taken advantage of by Congress."
"The bankers are so innocent and pure, their virtue so unchallenged, it is easy for congressional staffers to walk right over them."
Boehner's spokesman, Michael Steel, defended the lawmaker's remark, saying, "Congressional staff should treat every American citizen with respect. Clearly, he was talking about any staff that don't."
Divide and Conquer
The GOP has a new strategy to win back the Senate: Divide up Texas.
"We could probably carve up Texas into about four states," Sen. Richard Shelby, the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, told the American Bankers Association conference.
The trade group's annual conference kicked off on Tuesday, a day after Sen. Dodd, the banking panel's chairman, unveiled a 1,300-page regulatory reform bill. Shelby had been negotiating with Dodd to draft legislation to overhaul regulation of financial markets.
Shelby, who led the committee before Democrats gained the majority in 2006, clearly was wistful for those days. Asked what was the best way for bankers to help Shelby as he negotiates on reg reform, he replied, "What you can do for us is elect more Republicans to the U.S. Senate."
A banker from Texas then jumped up and suggested they add a third Republican senator from his state. But Shelby had grander ambitions.
"I'm not in the Texas Legislature, so I don't know," he said, but then referred to a proposal to break Texas into four or five states, allowing for an additional six or eight senators. "But it might be a good way to get eight Republicans; what the heck."
A regulator finding a tough crowd in a room full of bankers is not surprising.
But apparently there are tougher rooms.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair told the American Bankers Association conference that she had spoken earlier at her daughter's elementary school. Before that speech, Bair said, the children were told about her Forbes ranking as the second-most-powerful woman in the world.
"The first question, of course, was: 'Who's No. 1?' " she said. "It's hard to impress kids."
For our curious younger readers, the magazine ranked Bair behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Lee R. Gibson, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas chairman, has been elected to a two-year term as chairman of the Council of Federal Home Loan Banks.
He succeeds Michael "Mick" K. Guttau, the chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines.
Gibson is a senior executive vice president and the chief financial officer of Southside Bank in Tyler, Texas. He has been with the Dallas FHLB since 2002 and its chairman since 2007.