Helping Lawmakers Succeed

By Dorothy Savarese

You don’t have to run for political office—or even work on a campaign, as I and many of you likely have—to know that it is demanding and tedious work that requires tremendous commitment, stamina and patience. And while winning is the goal, it’s also only the beginning. About an hour after the toast to celebrate a candidate’s election, the really hard work begins.

The more than 50 new members being sworn into Congress in January have spent the days since Nov. 8 transitioning from their previous lives, jobs and homes to their new positions, weighted with their own expectations and those of their constituents. No doubt they all want to succeed and do right by their communities. Knowing this—and believing it—is the first step in helping them do so.

As bankers, we might sometimes wonder if Washington is aligned against us. We’ve seen enough ill-fitting regulations and heard enough bank-bashing to think policymakers just don’t get us—in fact don’t even like us. But really, our interests and those of our elected officials are remarkably in tune. We both need and want the communities, families and businesses we serve to thrive economically. It’s a fundamental mission we share. Sometimes we just need to remind them and demonstrate this inextricable linkage between the common good and our own success.

The best way to do this sort of dot-connecting is through in-person meetings. That’s why ABA hosts a “freshman fly-in” at the beginning of each congress, encouraging bankers with newly elected senators and representatives to visit them in their Washington offices, introduce themselves and establish their bank as a source of reliable information on banking and economic issues.

It’s also why more and more bankers are hosting their lawmakers at their banks, where they can introduce them to staff and customers who can act as witnesses to how important banks are to their communities, how they operate and how policies play out back home.

That’s something Luther Deaton—chairman, president and CEO of Central Bank & Trust in Lexington, Ky.—did superbly well last summer when he invited his congressman, Rep. Andy Barr, to a town hall meeting at his bank.

I’m grateful that they both allowed ABA to send along a camera crew so we could demonstrate to others how easy and effective it is to “take your lawmaker to work.” The result is an excellent how-to video, which you can view, along with other bank visit resources, at aba.com/LawmakersAtWork.

As Luther explains, we have to be proactive in building our relationships and establishing trust so that decision makers will want and accept our calls when key legislation is on the line. “One thing about politicians—you’ve got to go to them,” Luther says. “You’ve got to tell them what the problems are and say ‘we need help.’”

The truth is, the lawmakers also need help, particularly the new ones. They have to prepare to cast informed votes on a wide range of issues. That means they need useful information, quality relationships and the kind of economic insights that bankers are uniquely positioned to offer. Let’s make a point to be there for them, and for the entire 115th Congress. Let’s help them succeed so that they can help our customers, employees and communities succeed.

ABA Chairman Dorothy Savarese is chairman, president and CEO of the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank in Orleans, Mass.

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