Two years ago, a small group of state bank trade association executives met with a few bankers, mostly from the western United States, and developed a concept to positively influence a couple of key Congressional races. The effort, now known as the Friends of Traditional Banking (FOTB), is managed by a 50-state board of banking leaders. Indiana is represented by Pat Glotzbach, who recently accepted an FOTB board appointment. He serves banking as president and CEO of The New Washington State Bank, Charlestown, and is a past chairman of the board of the Indiana Bankers Association.
Today there are about 5,000 members of FOTB; the goal is to reach 10,000 by this fall’s election. Members pledge to support two candidates — selected by the FOTB board of directors — and send personal checks to the political action campaigns of those candidates. In the last election two years ago, FOTB supported Dean Heller, a community banker in the Nevada Senate race. Heller won the race, and he now sits on the U.S. Senate Committee of Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs, where he is quickly becoming a respected voice on banking issues. The other candidate selected by FOTB was Scott Brown in his effort to defend the seat he had won in Massachusetts in a special race to complete the term of Ted Kennedy upon his death. Brown’s opponent was Elizabeth Warren, who had conceived of and implemented the idea of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Warren won the election and now she, too, serves on the Senate banking committee.
These are two vivid examples of how the FOTB board will determine the congressional elections to ask members to support. In the first example, FOTB identified a former banker in a tight election and encouraged support from FOTB members. In the second example, the strategy was based on siding against a candidate with a track record of opposing banks. Regardless of how the FOTB board selects the election races to enter, there are two constants. First, FOTB engages only in close races where the financial support of FOTB members can make a difference in determining the outcome. Second, FOTB selects only races that appear to be important to banking.
FOTB is not designed to replace or compete with existing banking political action committees. As a matter of fact, both the American Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America are FOTB supporters. FOTB is simply an additional concept for influencing a small number of elections in favor of bank-friendly candidates.
Two years ago, during the last election, FOTB had only about 500 members. As noted above, today there are about 5,000 members, with an election goal of 10,000. Two years ago, it is estimated that FOTB was responsible for about $250,000 for each of the two elections. With 10,000 members, we could be responsible for $5 million per race. That support will make a difference. In the coming weeks and months, you will likely be hearing from Pat Glotzbach about how you can become involved with FOTB, and I encourage you to take the time to seriously consider participating. In the meantime, you can learn more at the Friends of Traditional Banking website.
S. Joe DeHaven