JeffCo Congressmen Fight Operation Choke Point

24 Jul

The Post-Dispatch highlights a House Financial Services subcommittee hearing in which US Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-3rd) and Ann Wagner (R-2nd), both of whom represent parts of Jefferson County in Congress, pushed back against an Obama Administration initiative called Operation Choke Point. This plan is supposed to “cut off bank access to enterprises that prey on consumers.” But our representatives see it as a scheme to shut down business sectors that the Administration doesn’t like.

“Operation Choke Point takes a new approach to banking supervision,” said Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, Mo., who has introduced legislation to end the Justice Department initiative. “Bend your authorities and force that industry out of the financial services space, making it impossible to survive.”

Luetkemeyer has worked in the banking industry. As for Wagner:

Wagner said she had “heard from business owners from across Missouri and Kansas … who said they have had to cut thousands of jobs” because of concerns they would incur the scrutiny of Operation Choke Point.

Businesses that Republicans argue could be affected are those related to guns, ammunition, payday lending, and coal, among others. Here’s what a former FDIC chairman said, from a Daily Caller article:

“Operation Choke Point is one of the most dangerous programs I have experienced in my 45 years of service as a bank regulator, bank attorney and consultant, and bank board member. Operating without legal authority and guided by a political agenda, unelected officials at the DOJ are discouraging banks from providing basic banking services…to lawful businesses simply because they don’t like them,” said William M. Isaac, former chairman of the FDIC.

Isaac has an editorial here. It appears the way this program works is by threatening banks with expensive, dragged-out investigations and audits if they don’t do the Justice Department’s bidding. Luetkemeyer has introduced a bill:

Missouri Republican Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer brought forward the End Operation Choke Point Act Tuesday to curb the DOJ’s activities in this area. The act would provide financial institutions with safe harbor to serve customers engaged in legal activities, so as to cut out politically motivated attacks on businesses deemed undesirable by the Justice Department.

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