Magazine article Independent Banker

You Have the Power

Magazine article Independent Banker

You Have the Power

Article excerpt

The boardrooms and teller stations of community banks can seem a long way from Capitol Hill. While members of Congress debate bills and navigate partisan rancor, community bankers focus on the direct, practical needs of their institutions and customers. Many prefer to leave politics to the professionals, relying on ICBA and its team of experienced lobbyists to promote and protect their interests in Washington, D.C. But Congress isn't as far away as most community bankers think.

Each of the 535 members of Congress represents a state or district filled with the people who elected him or her. While legislators work with lobbyists to help them sort through the overwhelming number of issues before them, they can't rely exclusively on their input. Legislators who want to keep their jobs-and that's all of them- seek constituent feedback to help them make decisions.

That's where community bankers come in. In politics, as in banking, personal relationships and trust still come into play. Whether it's in Washington, D.C., or back at home, communication between bankers and elected officials plays a critical role in supporting the work of ICBA's lobbyists. Lobbyists can explain the pros and cons of an issue or help a member understand which other members support a bill, but only community bankers can provide personal, real-world insight into how a bill or banking issue will ultimately affect their communities.

"Members of Congress aren't going to vote for a bill because Brian Cooney asked them to," says Brian Cooney, ICBA senior vice president and senior legislative counsel, congressional relations, whose lobbying career has spanned more than 30 years. "When a member decides whether or not to support a particular piece of legislation, they do it through a prism of their districts and home state-as they should. They are going to vote because they have heard from a community banker whom they trust from back home. …

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