Political Party Time

Conference Committee Democrats plan fundraisers at home of financial industry lobbyist

On the final two days of the Wall St. reform conference, committee members Reps. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. and Ed Towns, D-N.Y., have each planned fundraising lunches at the home of Tim Rupli, a lobbyist for the financial industry.

Today at noon, soon after the committee began its work at 10 a.m., it's Rep. Ed Towns' turn to fundraise at Rupli's New Jersey Ave. townhouse, a very popular party spot for lawmakers which was featured in a 2008 USA Today article. The invitation to Towns’ lunch asks $500 from individual donors and $1,000 from PACs. Towns will be there, his press secretary said. "If it doesn't impact his work, and he knows that better than anybody, I'm sure he'll make an appearance [at the fundraiser]....He's a big boy, he knows what he's doing,” Julian Phillips said.

Yesterday, at noon, before the committee opened just after 1:00, Gutierrez had planned a lunch at the Rupli Townhouse, where donors could attend for between $500 and $2,500. However, that lunch, for some reason, was moved to La Lomita Dos, a downtown Mexican restaurant. The congressman planned to at least stop by, his press secretary said.

Among several financial industry groups that Rupli represents, one of his clients is the Community Financial Services Association, a payday loan industry group still hoping for a loophole in the final bill, the Wall Street Journal reported. CFSA paid Rupli's firm $240,000 in the first quarter, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. CFSA and the $42 billion payday loan industry has been lobbying against the series of bills attempting to regulate the payday industry since last year.

As chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, Gutierrez introduced the Payday Loan Reform Act of 2009 last year. He got flack from consumer groups, who said the bill was too weak. Later he vowed to reject any contributions from the payday industry, saying, “I want to avoid even the appearance that there is a conflict, so I will not be accepting any contributions from the payday loan industry.”

Keep in mind that, Rupli may not have been present at the Gutierrez lunch -- it could be held at his pad without him. (Rupli was listed as a host to the Towns’ lunch).

Towns, as chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has less conference committee responsibility than Guiterrez, who sits on the Financial Services Committee. Most votes are voted on by the financial services and banking members, without the outside conferees, said Kurt Bardella, press secretary for Rep. Darrell Issa, R- Calif.

CFSA hasn’t contributed to Gutierrez’s campaign this cycle, but it gave $2,000 to Towns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Rupli has contributed $2,400 to Gutierrez and $1,000 to Towns this cycle, according to CRP.

But another Rupli client is a big Gutierrez backer: the Independent Community Bankers of America, which lobbied against the Durbin amendment to regulate debit card swipe fees. ICBA is Gutierrez’s biggest donor this cycle, at $10,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

ICBA spent $4.75 million lobbying last year, including over $400,000 on Mr. Rupli’s services, according to CRP.

Finally, there is another Rupli client that has a stake in financial reform: the Network Branded Prepaid Card Association. The group scored a victory this week; in a compromise reached on the “swipe fees” amendment, prepaid cards were exempted from regulation. Russell Simmons is celebrating.