A $250 Seminar Aims to Turn Bankers Into Politicians

  • Main lobbying group encouraging more lenders to run for office
  • ABA wants ex-bankers to be in position to vote on legislation

Bankers had a pariah status in Washington in the years after the financial crisis, shunned for top government jobs and frequently attacked during political campaigns.

That’s quickly changing as President Donald Trump fills his administration with former finance executives. Now, one of the industry’s biggest lobbying groups is encouraging even more bankers to relocate to the nation’s capital.

The American Bankers Association said Tuesday that it’s soliciting applications for a new program designed to groom its members for public office. The association will host a two-day Washington workshop in September where bank employees or directors who pay $250 can learn tips on running a successful political campaign.

“It’s critically important that those casting votes on banking policy fully understand and appreciate the impact their decisions will have on a community and its residents,” ABA President and Chief Executive Officer Rob Nichols said in a statement. Just 18 of the 535 members of Congress today have a background in banking, Nichols said.

Still Unpopular

Turning more bankers into lawmakers certainly wouldn’t hurt Republican efforts to roll back the Dodd-Frank Act, legislation passed in 2010 to rein in Wall Street after the U.S. economy teetered on the edge of collapse.

Still, bankers remain unpopular in some circles. And it might not help that the industry continues to pop-up in high-profile scandals, including last year’s revelations that Wells Fargo & Co. may have opened more than 2 million accounts without customers’ approval.

Applicants to the “ABA Candidate School” are required to list what office they are interested in pursuing in the 2018 or 2020 election cycle, according to the application form. Approved positions include the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, state senate and governor. Bankers accepted into the ABA program will learn more about political fundraising, the paperwork that’s needed to run for office and how to conduct research.

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