Tester denounces ad fighting bank bill

The Billings Gazette

by Mike Dennison

HELENA — A little-known political group with links to conservative and Republican Party figures is urging Montanans to oppose a “big bank bailout bill” — but U.S. Sen. Jon Tester says the banking bill does no such thing and wonders who’s behind the ad.

“That ad is confusing a lot of folks, because it’s not true,” he said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “We’re not dealing with any $4 trillion bank bailout. To confuse people and put forward an ad with a lot of false information, and not tell people who you are? … I cannot believe the system works this way.”

The ad, which began running last week on TV stations in Montana and other areas around the country, is sponsored by The Committee for Truth in Politics, whose registered agent is a North Carolina attorney involved in Republican Party politics, according to press reports.

The committee ran ads criticizing President Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign and has been involved in lawsuits challenging federal regulations on registration and disclosure by political groups.

Its attorney, James Bopp Jr. of Terre Haute, Ind., initially represented Citizens United in that group’s lawsuit that resulted in the landmark Jan. 21 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down federal restrictions on corporate and union spending on campaigns and political communication.

Bopp did not respond Wednesday to an e-mail asking about the group.

The group also apparently is sponsoring telephone calls to individual households in Montana, with a similar message about the bank regulation bill.

The ad attacks a House-approved bill that seeks to tighten regulations on banks, investment houses and various financial practices and transactions.

Thirty-second and 60-second versions of the voiceless ad warn that a bill passed last year by the U.S. House is a $4 trillion bailout bill for banks passed at the behest of “fat-cat lobbyists, special interests, lining their pockets at our expense.”

It shows pictures of Democratic congressional leaders, says the bill is “soon to be considered in the Senate,” and urges Montanans to call Tester and Montana’s other U.S. senator, Max Baucus, to tell them to oppose the bill.

The bill is House Democrats’ major push to tighten regulations on banks, Wall Street and the financial system, in response to 2008’s financial meltdown, which helped trigger the nation’s recession.

It passed the House in December on a 223-208 vote. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., voted against it.

Tester said the bill is opposed by Wall Street banking and investment houses and other financial entities that fear stricter regulation.

The Senate has not taken up the House bill but is working on its own measure, which Tester said he hopes will crack down on the practices that led to the 2008 financial collapse.

Last week, FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan group that checks accuracy of political ads, said the ad says the Federal Reserve can loan money to prop up financial entities and caps the amount at $4 trillion. But the Federal Reserve already has that power, and the bill puts many more restrictions on that authority, FactCheck.org said.

The Committee for Truth in Politics sued the FEC in 2008, challenging reporting and financial disclosure requirements that apply to the group.

It also filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Citizens United in the case that led to the Jan. 21 Supreme Court decision on corporate spending.

In that brief, the committee described itself as a “nonprofit North Carolina corporation that advocates for limited government and honesty in government.”