WASHINGTON -- For financial services lobbyists the presidential nominating conventions are like the championship of their sport, but this year is already shaping up as an exception to that rule.
Financial services organizations are up against stricter ethics standards, weakened financial footing, and harsh rhetoric from both candidates that casts lobbyists, and much of the industry, in a negative light. The result is that lobbyists and even congressional staff are taking a cautious approach to the convention revelry and keeping a lower profile.
Some have opted to bow out altogether. For the first time in decades the American Bankers Association is not attending either convention.
"We evaluate all of the aspects around opportunities like this," said Floyd Stoner, the ABA's head lobbyist. "Circumstances have changed and certainly these are challenging economic times for financial institutions, and we decided not to go."
Many individual bank lobbyists interviewed for this article - for whom attending the conventions would ordinarily be a no-brainer - said they are still debating whether it is worth attending this year's events, and some are waiting to see what others are doing.
"I'm in limbo on the conventions," said a lobbyist for a major financial services organization. "There's so much lack of clarity on guidance on what is or isn't permissible, on what would constitute a gift or a widely attended event, that I think that everybody is kind of standing off and watching, and I know a lot of people who may not even go to the conventions."
Others are scaling back. Erick Gustafson, the senior vice president for legislative and political affairs at the Mortgage Bankers Association, said the group is still weighing how …