Spencer Bachus — Financial Services Committee

Alabama lawmaker takes aim at financial regulation reforms

Spencer Bachus is a nine-term lawmaker from Alabama’s 6th district, which includes the Birmingham and Tuscaloosa suburbs. It is one of the most solidly Republican districts in the country, and Bachus has faced few threats since he was first elected in 1992. Before entering Congress, Bachus was a state senator — one of the first Republicans elected to the Alabama Senate since Reconstruction.

Bachus, 62, is now ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, a panel that oversees the Federal Reserve, banking, insurance, real estate, securities, and public housing. The committee’s current chairman, Democrat Barney Frank of Massachusetts, co-authored the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that aims to curb Wall Street abuses.

If Bachus, as expected, becomes chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, it would mark a political comeback. The Alabama lawmaker lost the confidence of House Republican leaders during 2008 congressional negotiations creating the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout. During the debate earlier this year over financial regulation reform, Bachus was often overshadowed by other GOP members on the committee such as Jeb Hensarling and Randy Neugebauer of Texas, and Scott Garrett of New Jersey, who offered amendments that forced Democrats to cast politically difficult votes.

Since Dodd-Frank was signed into law in July, Bachus has called for repealing portions of it, including language giving the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. the power to liquidate a troubled large nonbank financial firm teetering near collapse. That provision is among the reforms designed to prevent a repeat of the 2007-08 financial meltdown that froze credit markets and led to the bailout program under the Bush administration. The committee chairmanship would also give Bachus a prominent platform to continue attacking the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the $150 billion taxpayers have spent on housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“There are lot of job-killing provisions in that [financial regulation] bill and there is a lot of just new bureaucracies created,” Bachus told CNBC on Wednesday. “Putting all derivatives on exchanges is just one example of something that is going to dry up liquidity, that is going to impact the economy, and is going to cost jobs.” He added that Republicans will take “incremental steps” to change the Dodd-Frank law and will try to enlist support from moderate Democrats in the Senate.

Bachus’s legislative successes include the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, which bolstered identity theft protections and gave consumers a free copy of their credit report; and extra FDIC insurance coverage for retirement accounts. He also helped create a wildlife refuge along the Cahaba River in Alabama, and has been an advocate of debt relief and humanitarian aid for Africa.

Bachus is among GOP officials who have talked about the possibility of shutting down the federal government next year. “I would think when we send the spending bills to the president he will veto them, and then the hard vote will be when he sends them back, and we will be faced with another situation where he will probably try to force us to shut government down, and we are going to have to be brave this time,” Bachus said recently on the Fox Business Network.

Bachus’s largest donors are political action committees for banks, insurers, and auditors, which contributed more than half of the $2.7 million in PAC money he received during the past two election cycles. In recent months, he asked financial lobbyists to give more to Republican candidates, given that the Democrats had “hammered them” with the Dodd-Frank law.

Top PAC contributors

  • Bank of America Corp., the nation’s largest bank holding company — at least $45,000
  • Wells Fargo, another big financial services company — at least $35,000
  • Aflac Inc., a supplemental insurance company covering more than 50 million people worldwide — at least $32,500
  • Ernst & Young, an international auditing and business consulting firm — at least $30,000
  • Credit Suisse Securities, an international financial services group — at least $30,000
  • PACs gave at least $2.69 million to Bachus’s campaign account and his Growth and Prosperity leadership PAC. Bachus received over $2 million more in contributions from PACs than from individuals

Revolving door

  • Jennifer Bellamy, former legislative counsel, is now legislative counsel for criminal justice issues at the American Civil Liberties Union
  • Jennifer Hatcher, a former chief of staff, is now vice president for government relations at the Food Marketing Institute
  • Seth Webb, a former committee chief of staff, now lobbies for Google Inc.

Earmarks

  • Between 2008 and 2010, Bachus successfully obtained $64.1 million in earmarks, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense
  • Obtained $24.2 million for an Army Corps of Engineers project on the Black Warrior and Tombigbee Rivers
  • Obtained $1.2 million for the University of Alabama-Birmingham to test metals used to armor combat vehicles
  • Obtained $298,000 for a parking lot and turn lanes at the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge

Campaign promises

  • Bachus says he wants to remove government support for housing finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were not included in the Dodd-Frank reform bill because of the complexity of the housing credit market. “Ending the bailout of Fannie and Freddie will be at the top of our agenda,” he said recently. “House Republicans want to reinvigorate the housing finance system so government guarantees no longer make private investors and creditors wealthy while saddling taxpayers with losses”
  • Bachus has endorsed the House GOP’s “Pledge to America,” saying government has grown too big and is hurting the economy as well as individual rights. “We cannot spend, borrow, bail out, and tax our way to prosperity,” he said. “The consistent pattern with health care, cap and tax, and financial regulation is that the government is making the choices, instead of the individual.” Bachus pledges to create jobs by returning “to the principles of less spending, low taxes, and constitutional government”

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