The leaders of the American Bankers Association, which represents thousands of banks, just voted today to create an undisclosed legal entity to channel millions of corporate dollars into federal elections this year. Though few details have been released on how the ABA will direct the money, other than comments to the press  that it will be used to support the pro–bank industry candidates, the Romney-Ryan campaign may see some benefit.
The ABA’s president, Frank Keating, is a prominent supporter  of the Romney campaign. After serving as governor of Oklahoma, Keating retired from public service to become a bank lobbyist.
Keating has been featured  as a financial services policy adviser to the candidate during fundraisers for the Romney campaign. He is among several chiefs of trade associations, like the American Petroleum Institute’s Jack Gerard, to align  with the Romney campaign this year.
This new ABA secret-money effort represents a major shift for the group that is possible only because of the Citizens United decision. Before the Supreme Court moved to allow unlimited corporate spending in the election, trade associations like the ABA could participate in federal elections only by creating transparent political action committees that could accept only limited, individual donations.
Now the sky is the limit. ABA’s embrace of the 501(c) loophole allows them to make of their electioneering efforts completely secret. (Previous ABA PAC spending can be found here .)
The ABA’s board, which will determine how to spend the newly established corporate money fund, is made up of executives  from Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citizens National Bank and BB&T Corporation, among others.
ABA’s lobbyists have indicated  that they are seeking to weaken key elements of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill signed into law by President Obama in 2010.
“I think the ABA ought to be ashamed of itself,” said Representative Barney Frank, the principle author of financial reform, in an interview with the Charlotte Observer at the Democratic convention last night.
As I reported  recently for The Nation and The Investigative Fund, trade associations like the ABA are the real “winners” of the Citizens United decision. Most corporations have eschewed so-called Super PACs because donations to these types of groups are generally disclosed. Big businesses, like banks and chemical companies, have instead chosen to channel tens of millions into federal elections through trade associations and other 501(c) groups.
Read the piece “Never Mind Super PACs: How Big Business Is Buying The Election .