Sunday, March 01, 2009

Frank Rips CitiField Then Welcomes Bank Money

Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank is one of the most powerful politicians in the country, serving as head of the House Financial Services Committee. And lately, he’s been one of the more outspoken critics of banks receiving bailout money paying big bucks for corporate sponsorships, complaining to the NEW YORK TIMES about Citigroup’s 20-year, $400 million stadium naming deal with the Mets that “marketing expenses should be for real marketing, not ego boosts, which is what I think naming rights are.” Which is a reasonable position to take; I don’t know if I agree with his assessment that no one “has ever opened a bank account or decided to buy a CD because a bank’s name is on the stadium” - if that’s the case, why do any marketing at all - but it’s a valid point. Of course, when you read Darren Rovell’s column on CNBC today, you start to get a sense that his motives might not be so pure.It seems Rep. Frank would rather banks stop frittering away money on sports sponsorships and put it where it can go to good use - into his own coiffers. That’s because the securities and investment industry has been Rep. Frank’s main contributor over the past two years, donating more than $230,000 to his campaign. And two of the five individual companies making the largest contributions - Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of America - are among the biggest players in sports marketing and sponsorships. We can draw a few conclusions from this: perhaps, as Rovell suggests, Rep. Frank is pretty sure the Wall Street well has dried up for contributions, so it’s safe to bite the hand that fed him; or maybe he is a truly heroic public servant, willing to put his political money pipeline at risk in order to do what’s right for the country. Of course, the third, most cynical option is that he’s talking up his opposition to banks “wasting” millions in bailout money while waiting for their checks to clear. Aren’t you just thrilled that the old way of doing politics in Washington is clearly dead in a post-Obama world?