Electronic payments group creates PAC, registers lobbyist

An international trade group for the electronic payments industry is supercharging its presence in Washington.

The Electronic Transactions Association (ETA) announced Friday it is forming a political action committee, ETA PAC, hiring a new government relations manager and registering a Capitol Hill and government relations veteran as its first in-house lobbyist.

Mary Bennett, already the organization’s director of government relations, will register to lobby for the group. She has been with ETA since 2008 and officially registered two weeks ago, according to federal records.

The ETA, which was founded in 1990 as the Bankcard Services Association, thus far has not retained any outside firms to lobby on its behalf. It began with less than 20 industry executives and has expanded to more than 500 member companies in seven countries.

As part of its expansion, it has hired as the its new senior government affairs manager Jaime Graham, who most recently worked for former Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.).

“At a time of unprecedented change in the payments industry, ETA’s government relations efforts are enormously important to our industry,” said Bobby Thomson in an emailed statement. Thomson serves as the leader of Visa’s government relations office and as the chairman of the ETA’s Government Relations Committee. The committee is made up of more than 30 of the nation’s largest financial and technology companies.

PACs have been an increasingly important part of politics, which companies have long used to win allies in Congress by donating to strategically important key members.

ETA PAC will be able to raise funds from company employees and then use the money to make donations to candidates.

Prior to joining the ETA, Bennet was a government affairs professional for Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, a nonprofit organization established by Congress that works to manage the audits of public companies.

She’s also worked at The Washington Campus, an education consortium that teaches corporate executives and government and embassy officials about the ways of Washington, providing certificate programs and MBA degrees.

During her time on Capitol Hill, where she held various positions for almost a decade, she worked as a legislative director for former Sen. Richard Bryan (D-Nev.) and worked on a House Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs subcommittee, among others.