The effort to beat back the audit relies on playing two members of the same caucus — Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) — off each other.
In order to obtain the documents, HuffPost agreed not to reveal the name of the Federal Reserve official who did the specific lobbying in question. Fed officials, including Chairman Ben Bernanke, have made public statements against requiring disclosure and members of the Senate and their aides have talked about Fed lobbying in general, but the documents reveal a very specific hand-to-hand style of combat being engaged in as the vote on the amendment draws near.
With a vote possible on Tuesday, a Fed official e-mailed three documents to a Senate staffer. “I am sending some information on the effects of audits of the Federal Reserve System as well as two additional documents – one summarizes the GAO and related provisions in the Dodd Bill as passed by the committee (Title XI, Sections 1151-1153) and the other is a summary of the Sanders and Paul/Grayson amendments,” the official said in an e-mail.
“As I mentioned, we believe that the bipartisan Corker-Merkley provision in the Dodd Bill is quite strong and addresses issues of transparency and disclosure without impinging on the independence of monetary policy,” the official goes on. More…
We’ve all seen the Corker-Merkley provision in the House Financial Services Committee in October 2009 when Mel Watt introduced his “placebo” amendment to neutralize Ron Paul’s and Alan Grayson’s Audit the Fed amendment. That time around, the big bankers were no match for the public outrage directed towards the Federal Reserve. On November 19, 2009, after several hours of heated debate, the Watt amendment was soundly defeated in committee, and Ron Paul’s Audit the Fed amendment later passed in the House.
Now, the fight for transparency has moved to the Senate, and it doesn’t look good. The Campaign for Liberty sent out the following letter to other organizations in support of Bernie Sanders’ Audit the Fed amendment:
Although we oppose S. 3217, the financial regulatory reform legislation currently being considered on the Senate floor, we urge you to vote for Sens. Sanders, Feingold, DeMint, and Vitter’s Federal Reserve Transparency Amendment.
This amendment is similar to S.604, the Federal Reserve Sunshine Act, which was offered as an amendment to last year’s Budget Resolution. S. 604 has 33 bipartisan cosponsors. The Federal Reserve Transparency Act (H.R. 1207), the House companion bill, has 320 bipartisan cosponsors. A slightly modified version of H.R. 1207 passed the House Financial Services Committee by a vote of 43-28 and was incorporated into the financial reform bill passed by the House.
This amendment does not take away the “independence” of the Fed. It simply requires the GAO to conduct an independent audit of the Fed and requires the Fed to release the names of the recipients of more than $2 trillion in taxpayer-backed assistance during this latest economic crisis.
S. 3217 unacceptably increases the Fed’s powers at a time when the American people are demanding answers as to what the Federal Reserve has been doing with the powers it currently possesses. It also strips out the strong audit language contained in the House’s reform bill in favor of a watered-down approach that allows the Fed to continue operating in secret. Any true financial reform effort will start with requiring accountability from our nation’s central bank.
Therefore, we urge you to work for a standalone vote on S. 604 and, if S. 3217 is brought up for a vote, strongly encourage you to support increased transparency at the Federal Reserve by voting in favor of the Fed Transparency Amendment.
Other groups who have signed on include Americans for Tax Reform, DownsizeDC.org, FreedomWorks, and the Center for Fiscal Accountability.
A vote could come at any time, so please contact your senators with the following three points:
- Support a standalone vote on S. 604
- Oppose the overall Dodd bill
- Support the Sanders amendment when the vote comes