* American Bankers Association to form nonprofit
* Could intensify opposition to Dodd-Frank
* Decisions pending which Senate, House races ABA will
By Alina Selyukh
WASHINGTON, Sept 5 A major banking industry
trade group is planning a foray into the U.S. elections by
creating a tax-exempt organization capable of raising unlimited
anonymous funds, the groups' chief operating officer said
The board of directors at the American Bankers Association,
which represents about 5,000 U.S. banks, will vote on Thursday
whether to launch a nonprofit advocacy group, which would join
the scores of tax-exempts already pouring millions into the 2012
election without having to disclose donors.
"It's a capability that most trade associations have," said
ABA's Chief Operating Officer Michael Hunter. "It's been on the
table for a while ... In some ways this is just building out a
capability that the ABA needs in the long term."
The group is expected to focus on changing the 2010
Dodd-Frank law that overhauled federal oversight of the
financial system, Hunter said.
But it would be up to the nonprofit's own board of directors
- proposed to be made up of 14 bankers - to decide which House
and Senate races the nonprofit would seek to influence, he said.
"They could decide to marshal resources for the 2013
election," Hunter said. "Nothing's on the table an everything's
on the table."
The ABA's traditional disclosed donations so far this
campaign cycle stand at about $1.7 million, and have gone
predominantly to Republican candidates in the House and Senate,
according to a tally on the website of the Center for Responsive
Tax-exempt organizations have been prominent political
players for nearly a decade, and have been under scrutiny for
keeping donors anonymous. The issue has especially escalated
this year because of the Democrats' quest to restrain powerful
The Internal Revenue Service grants these groups tax
exemption as long as most of their money is not spent on
Corporations gained new political power in 2010 when the
U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations' and unions' free
speech rights were equal to those of individuals. The ruling
lifted limits on what they may directly spend from their
treasuries to support or oppose a candidate.
Hunter said the nonprofit would ask member banks for
donations depending on the bank's size. Small ones will be asked
for $1,000, he said, medium-sized banks $5,000, and $10,000 from
If all members contribute what they're asked for, the
nonprofit would kick off with $6 million, but Hunter said he
expected 40 percent to 50 percent of the members to participate,
putting the likely startup cash pool at about $2 million.
The ABA's plan for a nonprofit, revealed in a private call
with members on Tuesday, was first reported by Bloomberg.