Nothing about my support for bank was inappropriate

The article explains that one year ago, I wrote a letter in support of Banco Popular. That’s true. The article alleges that I did so in large part because my wife was an employee of Banco Popular. That’s wrong. The facts, as my staff detailed to your reporter, demonstrate that if I had allowed personal feelings to guide my decisions as a member of Congress, I wouldn’t have helped Banco Popular at all.

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In December 2007, one year before I wrote the letter of support, my wife was terminated from Banco Popular. She was summarily called to her supervisor’s office and told, “Merry Christmas. Your services are no longer needed.”

I thought her firing was unfair and handled unprofessionally. I was angered by what I believed to be poor treatment of a loved one who was very committed to her job. I suppose I could have tried to use my position as a member of Congress to punish Banco Popular in some way. But that would be wrong, and probably would be deserving of a negative story in The Hill.

Instead, after my wife was terminated, I wrote a letter of support for Banco Popular. Why? I wrote it on behalf of Hispanic and low-income consumers. Although The Hill leads its readers to believe that I sought to help a bank far from my district, nine of the 16 Banco Popular branches in the greater Chicago area, more than half, are located in my district, and the bank’s North America headquarters is located in Chicago. And in Puerto Rico, it is the largest lender and largest local private employer. At the time, Banco Popular held approximately one-third of total bank deposits on the island, and it provided financial services to more than 1 million residents, mostly minorities, across California, Florida, New Jersey, New York and my home state of Illinois.

Despite these facts, The Hill misled readers by working diligently to give the impression that I helped Banco Popular because of my wife’s employment and because of campaign contributions made to me. The facts about my letter in support of Banco Popular are misrepresented or left out completely.

In addition to ignoring my personal feelings toward the bank and denying its importance to the residents in my district, The Hill misstates Banco Popular’s support for my campaigns. While I commend The Hill’s mathematical creativity and sense of drama in labeling what you believe to be $15,000 in contributions as “tens of thousands of dollars,” the truth is I did not receive even that much from Banco Popular.

I believe fair and accurate reporting might have also included that the modest amount of money my campaign has received from Banco Popular came years before the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and none has been received since. Or, it might have reminded readers of the fact that Treasury, not Congress, made the decision to directly invest capital in lending institutions.

I supported Banco Popular for the right reasons. I believed, and still do, that TARP should be used to serve the residents of Puerto Rico, the many customers of Banco Popular in my district, and minority and low-income consumers across our nation. In fact, I have regularly advocated on the Financial Services Committee for TARP to give more focus to the small and medium-sized businesses that are the backbone of our economy. I’ve held hearings on this very issue, that mid-size banks and businesses should benefit from TARP as much as Wall Street.

I also believe that allowing my personal feelings about the bank’s dismissal of my wife to affect my decision would have been wrong. I’m sorry The Hill disagrees, and I hope the next time they will try harder to get the story right.

Washington

Editor’s note: The Hill stands by its story, which was accurate.



Pentagon ignores illegal subsidies


From Paul Shearon, secretary-treasurer, International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, AFL-CIO

Your article on President Barack Obama’s golden opportunity to help reform World Trade Organization rules at its winter meeting (“Obama faces new push from Dems on WTO,” Oct. 21) missed how the Pentagon has failed to take into account a recent, historic WTO decision declaring illegal the billions in subsidies given to French aircraft manufacturer EADS/Airbus, which have already caused the loss of 65,000 jobs.

Even though defense procurement law clearly states that the Air Force is required to use a “competitive” process for awarding any contract, the Defense Department has so far taken no action to prevent EADS/Airbus from submitting a tanker aircraft financed by $5 billion of the same subsidies the WTO just ruled are illegal.

On the line in the tanker competition are Obama’s twin vows to hold corporations accountable and put Americans back to work. The federal government cannot in good conscience outsource the 44,000 jobs the tanker would support on the basis of an established trade violation.

President Obama has an opportunity now to start trade reform at home by discounting the effect of EADS/Airbus’s illegal subsidies and bringing fairness to the Air Force’s tanker competition.

Washington