Summers Takes On Boehner: “Punk Staffers” Aren’t the Problem, Bank Lobbyists Are

Yesterday, speaking at the American Bankers Association governmental relations summit, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) told the gathered bankers to fight Congressional financial reform efforts. “Don’t let those little punk staffers take advantage of you and stand up for yourselves,” Boehner said.

Today, White House National Economic Council Director Larry Summers fired back at Boehner, saying that bankers certainly do not need any help in their effort to blunt regulatory reform:

“I do not think that those who want to address these issues are ‘little punk staffers’ who need to be stood up to,” Summers said in a speech at the National Press Club…“At a moment when there are four lobbyists per member of the House and Senate working on this issue, we in the Administration do not believe that the prominent issue is allowing bankers to stand up for themselves.”

House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) also wrote a letter to Boehner, saying, “I am appalled that a Leader of the House, who must know what good work is done by our staffs, would take such an inaccurate cheap-shot at these people, for the purpose of ingratiating himself with bankers.” Frank called on Boehner to apologize for the remark.

Boehner’s remarks are simply part of a long-running effort by Republicans to ingratiate themselves with the financial industry. Boehner has met with JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to troll for campaign contributions, while Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, “said he visited New York about twice a month to try to tap into Wall Street’s ‘buyers remorse’” with Democrats. Back in December, House Republicans huddled with more than 100 financial services lobbyists to come up with a strategy for killing financial reform. And just today, as Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told the ABA summit that “if there were 59 Senate Republicans, ‘you wouldn’t have to worry’ about a new consumer agency.”

But as Summers noted, it’s not as if the financial services industry and its allies need any help. The Chamber of Commerce has already pledged to spend $3 million fighting financial reform, and that’s chump change compared to what the banks themselves spend. All told, the financial services industry spent $500 million on lobbying in 2009. In their respective careers, Boehner has received $3.4 million from the financial services industry, while Shelby has received $5.2 million, which is $2.2 million more than he’s received from any other industry.