Lincoln goes to bat for Waltons | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lincoln goes to bat for Waltons

Posted By on Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 8:41 AM

You'd think working tirelessly for a multi-billion-dollar estate tax exemption for the Walton family would be work enough for Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

But, no. The Wall Street Journal reports that she's trying to write a special exception for the Waltons' Arvest Bank into financial legislation.

Under Ms. Lincoln's proposed change, Arvest would be excused from a provision that could require banks to raise more capital, in Arvest's case about $115 million. Other Senate Democrats had intended only to exempt banks with less than $10 billion in capital from the provision. Ms. Lincoln wants to raise that to $15 billion, a threshold that would exempt Arvest. It is the only bank in Arkansas with between $10 billion and $15 billion of assets, though there are some in other states.

White House officials have said they don't want changes that benefit specific companies, leery of the horse-trading that nearly sank their health-care overhaul. But the administration also can't afford to alienate Ms. Lincoln, head of the Senate Agriculture Committee, whose support on the broader overhaul is vital to its success.

... Ms. Lincoln "believes the threshold should be high enough to ensure no bank in Arkansas is subject to these new rules on existing capital, which would hinder their ability to generate lending for consumers and businesses at a time when access to credit is already difficult to come by," said Ms. Lincoln's spokeswoman, Marni Goldberg, "These banks did not cause the near-collapse of our financial system and should not be punished for Wall Street's actions."

For a family worth in the range of $90 billion, someone might observe that $115 million is small change. This also illustrates how the rich get richer. For combined contributions of only $85,000 or so, the Walton family has gained a friend in Congress worth millions here, and potentially billions down the line.

The comparison in this article to Ben Nelson's dickering for Nebraska is likely to be repeated a few dozen times in the days ahead. The good news for Lincoln is that it's hard to imagine her Republican opponent, John Boozman, decrying a special provision for his homeys, the Waltons.

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