Investigative Group

THE SWAMP: Inside The ‘Revolving Door’ Reform Of Dodd-Frank

  • Sen. Mike Crapo won a spectacular victory Wednesday
  • The Senate passed his sponsored legislation cutting down some Dodd-Frank Act provisions
  • “I think everyone agrees that the community banks have been leading this effort,” a lobbyist said

Sen. Mike Crapo, a Republican from Idaho, won a spectacular victory Wednesday evening as the Senate passed his sponsored legislation cutting down some Dodd-Frank Act provisions, especially those that impacted small community banks. One of the prime promoters for Crapo’s bill was the Independent Community Bankers of America, a trade association representing some of America’s tiniest banks.

ICBA President and CEO Camden R. Fine was ecstatic about the victory: “ICBA thanks the many senators who supported this bipartisan legislation,” he said immediately after the bill passed by an impressive 67 to 31 vote.

Will Hollier worked relentlessly for passage of Crapo’s bill on behalf of ICBA.

The trade association first hired Hollier & Associates, a relatively small lobbying shop, in 2013. Hollier has close connections to the Senate Banking Committee, and his old boss, Crapo, would go on to become chairman of the powerful committee in 2017.

Prior to working for ICBA, Hollier served as Crapo’s campaign manager, chief of staff and legislative director. He also served as the “primary liaison” between Crapo and the Senate Banking Committee, according to the Hollier & Associates website.

Between 2013 and 2017, Hollier received nearly $1.2 million in lobbying fees from ICBA, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Between 2014 to 2017, Hollier’s old boss, Crapo, accepted nearly $100,000 from the trade association in campaign donations, according to the center.

TheDCNF caught up with Hollier while he was waiting for the historic Senate vote.

“This has had five years in the process,” he told TheDCNF. “You hope for a good vote. You watch the vote. We still have final passage coming up.”

Was he optimistic? “Oh I never talk about it until it’s over. I’m old school, with 15 years on the Hill,” he told TheDCNF, adding, “The vast majority of my time in the House and in the Senate was with Crapo.”

“Oh I see him a lot,” he added.

The lobbyist noted the critical role played by the trade association in getting yesterday’s bill passed. “I think everyone agrees that the community banks have been leading this effort,” he said, noting that they have a lot of big impact locally. “You have a community bank in nearly every town,” especially in rural and agricultural areas.

Hollier said he didn’t think there was a problem receiving $1.2 million to lobby his old bosses in the Senate Banking Committee, emphasizing that he lobbied other senators when his boss wasn’t chairman. “When the senator wasn’t the chairman, I worked with a lot of other members,” he said.

Hollier also emphasized that he has other clients besides the ICBA. “I have a wide variety of people. I have environmental groups, I have native American tribes, I have Microsoft,” he said.

From 2013, the trade association was the largest single income producing client for Hollier & Associates each year, ranging from $190,000 to about $250,000 in annual fees. In 2017, for instance, ICBA’s $240,000 was more than twice the size of the charges to Microsoft, his next biggest client in terms of fees. Over the life of his firm, Microsoft and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde have been longer customers, paying $1,355,000 and $1,247,500 respectively. Since ICBA became a client, the banking association has been the highest-paying client every year.

In 2013 and 2015, Hollier also was one of the top five independent contractors for ICBA, according to its IRS Form 990 filings.

Craig Holman, the lobbyist for Public Citizen who is an opponent of the revolving door, told TheDCNF, “This is a person who is using his government connections while in government service for personal profit in the private sector.”

The case, he said, is “a classic case of the revolving door” and “influence peddling.”

“They can not only sell themselves at a very high price to clients because they know all these people inside the Senate, but they also use those connections to be able to get their calls through and are very effective at delivering for their paying clients,” he said.

Camden Fine, the trade association’s CEO, also reaps large financial benefits. In its 2015 filing with the IRS, the trade association reported Fine received $2.5 million in salary and benefits.

That’s quite different from the incomes of his constituents, local community banks. The average community bank salary ranges from “approximately $23,152 per year for teller to $117,937 per year for vice president,” according to the job-tracking website Indeed. Tellers earn $12.06 per hour at the average community bank, according to Indeed.

When Dodd-Frank was first enacted, the trade association worked closely with Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, then the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee for whom the act is named after. In an opinion article published on March 14, the former senator confirmed that the act was written up in close consultation with ICBA.

“During the drafting of Dodd-Frank, we worked closely with the Independent Community Bankers Association, responding to every concern they raised,” Dodd asserted.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for passage.

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