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Your Weekly Report on the Discord from Washington, D.C.

In Partnership with the Eris Group

Welcome back! Ready to get started? The House sure is, passing four financial-related bills last week and rolling up its sleeves on a major reform package this week.

Hensarling Announces Action on Reform Package – The House Financial Services Committee will meet tomorrow, Tuesday, September 13, to discuss and mark up the Financial CHOICE Actfiled Friday as H.R. 5983. Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) co-sponsored the bill with all of the Committee’s subcommittee chairmen. Among other provisions, the 513-page bill would create an “off-ramp” for institutions that do not want to be regulated as large, complex financial institutions under Dodd-Frank; repeal the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s ability to designate firms as systemically important; reconstitute the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as the Consumer Financial Opportunity Council, with a dual mission of consumer protection and competitive markets; subject all the financial regulatory agencies to the appropriations process; and reduce regulatory burden for community financial institutions, retail investors and small businesses.

Fed Calls for Repeal of ILC Exemptions, Merchant Banking Powers – In a report submitted to Congress last week under Section 620 of Dodd-Frank, the Federal Reserve Board recommended that Congress repeal the authority for financial holding companies to engage in merchant banking activities, and repeal the grandfathered exemptions of industrial loan companies (ILCs) and unitary savings and loan holding companies (GUSLHCs) from restrictions on corporate ownership. “[A] repeal of merchant banking authority would help address potential safety and soundness concerns and maintain the basic tenet of separation of banking and commerce,” the report said.

House Approves Regulatory Relief for Investment Advisers – Last Friday the House voted 261-145 in favor of H.R. 5424, the Investment Advisers Modernization Act. The bill would exempt advisers who work for private equity firms from certain disclosure and reporting requirements. The bill, introduced by Rep. Robert Hurt (R-VA), had bipartisan co-sponsorship, and support on the floor from 35 Democrats. Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) said the bill would “find the investments and financing options that enable them to open their doors, hire workers and to succeed.”

House Approves Regulatory Relief for Capital Formation – Last Thursday the full House approved a package of three bills designed to make it easier for small businesses to raise capital: H.R. 2357, the Accelerating Access to Capital Act, which simplifies SEC registration requirements for smaller companies; H.R. 4850, the Micro Offering Safe Harbor Act; and H.R. 4852, the Private Placement Improvement Act, which directs the SEC to revise its Regulation D to ensure small businesses do not face unnecessary regulatory burdens when attempting to raise capital.

CFPB Fines Wells Fargo $100 Million for Unlawful Sales Practices – The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced last week that it had taken enforcement action against Wells Fargo for a range of “unfair and abusive practices” that included opening deposit accounts and transferring funds without authorization; applying for credit card accounts without consumers’ knowledge or consent; issuing and activating debit cards without consumers’ knowledge or consent; and creating false email addresses to enroll consumers in online banking services. The CFPB has ordered Wells Fargo to refund all related fees, ensure proper sales practices, and pay a $100 million fine. The bank will also pay an additional $35 million to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and $50 million to the City and County of Los Angeles.

House Panel Scrutinizes Cash Payments to Iran – The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations heard testimony last week about the Administration’s payment of $1.7 billion in cash to Iran, despite Justice Department warnings that Iran would perceive this as payment for four American hostages. Subcommittee Chairman Sean Duffy (R-WI) and full Committee Chairman Hensarling called for further investigations to determine whether these payments were illegal, noting that Iran is both a state sponsor of terrorism and a major money launderer.

This Week in Washington (and elsewhere):

September 13

House Financial Services Committee begins consideration of the Financial CHOICE Act, Chairman Hensarling’s proposal to roll back many provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, create a new form of bankruptcy for giant financial institutions, and reform bank supervisory procedures.

September 13 

Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs conducts a hearing on the Technical Mapping Advisory Council’s recommendations for adjustments to the National Flood Insurance Program. Witnesses will include public and private members of the Technical Mapping Advisory Council and a representative of FEMA. 10:30 a.m., SD-538 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

The Ellis Insight. Jim Ellis reports on upcoming races:

> President

Evidence is building that Donald Trump is surging back into parity with Hillary Clinton. Both the national and key state polls are beginning to report and reflect similar electoral patterns.

Eleven new polls from ten different pollsters (Rasmussen Reports conducted two surveys during the time period beginning August 30th) reveal that Clinton’s cumulative average lead during the past seven days has dropped to 1.6 percentage points with a range stretching from Clinton +4 to Trump +2.

The high water percentage mark for either candidate is only 45%, reached just once, and by Trump in the CNN/ORC survey. Clinton’s best performance was in the Los Angeles Times/ University of Southern California regular panel back continuous survey that yielded her 44% support. The lows for each candidate both came from the regular Morning Consult survey data. Here, Trump registered a week-low 36%, while Ms. Clinton was only slightly better at 38%.

Libertarian Gary Johnson reached 12% twice, in the NBC News/Survey Monkey poll and the Investors Business Daily/TIPP study. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate was not personally identified, her support being tabulated in the “Other” column. This number reached as high as 7% on the YouGov/Economist survey.

Turning to the states, Quinnipiac University released new data conducted from the August 29 – September 7 period in the critical swing states of Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. All of the sampling groups numbered more than 700 individuals. The race tightening in these places consistently coordinates with Ms. Clinton’s lessening national lead.

In Florida, the four-way split, including Clinton, Trump, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, respectively, is 43-43-8-2%. The Ohio number drastically improves for Trump and Johnson, now going to 37-41-14-4%. In North Carolina, Clinton and Johnson gain: 42-38-15% (Stein did not qualify for the ballot in North Carolina), and the Pennsylvania division broke 44-39-9-3% in Clinton’s favor, but Trump halved his deficit from what was reported in the Quinnipiac August poll.

> Senate

Florida:  Public Policy Polling (9/4-6; 744 FL likely voters) released their new Florida Senate poll and, like the other recent pollsters, finds Sen. Marco Rubio (R) leading Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter/West Palm Beach), this time by a slim 40-37% margin. The poll is consistent with others recently conducted, as they all place Rubio’s advantage between two and five percentage points.

Missouri:  Remington Research (9/1-2; 1,275 MO likely voters), a GOP survey research firm headquartered in Kansas City, finds home state Sen. Roy Blunt (R) posting a 47-40% margin over Secretary of State Jason Kander (D). This result is slightly better than other recently released surveys, but all show both candidates hovering in the 40s.

New Hampshire:  After two consecutive August surveys recorded Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) with slight two and one point leads, the Emerson College Polling Society found Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) re-taking a similarly small two point lead, 48-46%. The aggregate polling sum continues pointing to a virtual tie between the two candidates, as has been the case for more than a year.

North Carolina:  Two new surveys were just released in the Tar Heel State, each projecting a different race leader. In the new Suffolk University survey (9/5-7; 500 NC likely voters), Sen. Richard Burr (R) posts a 41-37% lead over challenger Deborah Ross (D), which is similar to last week’s Emerson College Polling Society study that found the Senator holding a 45-41% advantage. But, CBS News/YouGov (8/30-9/2; 1,088 NC likely voters) sees Ms. Ross forging into a slight 41-40% lead. Most of the overall data finds Burr holding a marginal edge, but North Carolina campaigns are always close. We can expect this contest to finish in tight fashion, as well.

Pennsylvania:  Four PA Senate polls were reported and we saw one more coming into the public domain last week. The new CBS News/YouGov study (8/30-9/2; 1,091 PA likely voters) finds challenger Katie McGinty (D) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R) tied at 39%, apiece. It is probable that the Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Nevada Senate races will ultimately decide which party assumes a nominal Senate majority.

> House

AZ-5:  A very surprising ending came in the open 5th District where Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Mesa) is retiring. After leading the Republican primary by 578 votes with only absentee and provisional ballots remaining to be counted, former executive Christine Jones looked to be in the driver’s seat against Senate President Andy Biggs. But, things dramatically changed as counting concluded. Biggs has now taken the lead in the final stages and unofficially ends the race with a nine-vote victory. The official canvass is now being conducted and must be completed on or before September 12th in accordance with Arizona election law. At that point a mandatory re-count will begin. The 5th is safely Republican, so the eventual winner will claim the seat in November. We can expect several weeks of re-counting and legal challenges to occur, however, before a final victor is certified.

NJ-5:  In what is becoming a tough re-election contest for seven-term Rep. Scott Garrett (R-Wantage/Bergen County), a just-released GBA Strategies poll for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (8/21-24; 400 NJ-5 likely voters), finds the Congressman clinging to a tight 44-42% lead over former Bill Clinton speechwriter Josh Gottheimer (D). The race still maintains a lean Republican rating, but it could be soon headed for the toss-up category. In an election cycle where Democrats are looking to expand the political playing field, this race continues to move up the party’s opposition target list.

NY-22:  A mid-August Democratic Anzalone Liszt Grove Research poll (8/14-16; 400 NY-22 likely voters) projects a tight three-way race in the open central New York CD that stretches from the Pennsylvania border to Lake Ontario. Three-term Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld) is retiring. The results find state Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney (R) and Broome County legislator Kim Myers (D) tied with 35%, apiece. In third place, but within striking distance of the two major party candidates, is Independent self-funder Martin Babinec, who is likely taking votes from Tenney. This seat could go either way, but is clearly a prime Democratic conversion opportunity.

> Governor

Oregon:  Portland-based DHM Research (9/1-6; 517 OR registered voters) released a survey of the Beaver State voters and while Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump 38-25%, interim Gov. Kate Brown (D) has assumed a 43-35% advantage over former Oregon Medical Association President Bud Pierce (R). The gubernatorial race is polling closer than one would have first guessed, but Gov. Brown remains the clear favorite to hold in this Democratic state. The winner finishes the final two years of resigned Gov. John Kitzhaber’s term, and then can seek a full four-year stint in 2018.

West Virginia:  Despite the Mountain State proving to be one of Donald Trump’s strongest entities (leading Hillary Clinton 49-31%), a Repass Research MetroNews West Virginia poll (8/9-28; 435 WV registered voters) posts independent businessman Jim Justice (D) to a large 46-32% lead over state Senate President Bill Cole (R). At this point, Mr. Justice appears primed to keep the Governor’s post within the Democratic Party universe. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.