Today’s story 2

BISMARCK — Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., defended his voting record and discussed the benefits of financial reform for North Dakota bankers at a conference Tuesday night.

Pomeroy spoke at the annual closing banquet of the Independent Community Banks of North Dakota in Bismarck.

Explaining his votes, Pomeroy said he believed the country was headed toward a depression.

“And that’s why, no matter how painful those votes were, I voted for the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) legislation,” Pomeroy said. “I didn’t think we had a choice.”

It’s also why he supported the Recovery Act and the automobile bailout, he said.

“Each of those bills was extremely controversial,” Pomeroy said. “My political popularity paid a price on those bills, I guarantee you.”

But by looking at the economy today, the wisdom of doing something versus doing nothing is now apparent, he said.

Pomeroy said there was legitimate anger about what happened on Wall Street “and what we had to do to bail out those dummies.” Financial reform was needed because it didn’t work to “go back and tell the American public we’re going to do things the same old way and hope it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Although the final reform law isn’t perfect, the legislation helps community bankers, he said.

The law permanently increased deposit insurance coverage to $250,000 and provides regulatory oversight of payday lenders and mortgage brokers, Pomeroy said. There are now tougher regulations on the biggest firms, and there will be enhanced input from community banks on proposed consumer rules, he said.

The campaign of Pomeroy’s opponent provided a response after learning Pomeroy was speaking about financial reform.

Nobody knows the full ramifications of the reform, which “creates uncertainty at a time when we need banks lending to small businesses,” said Tom Nelson, a campaign spokesman for Rep. Rick Berg, R-Fargo.

The law fails to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, “which were the cause of the problem by making loans it shouldn’t have made,” Nelson said.

North Dakota banks are also “getting more bureaucracy and regulation to deal with and didn’t do anything wrong in the past,” he said.

The Independent Community Banks of North Dakota makes an annual request for the state’s congressional delegation to attend its conference, said Don Forsberg, the group’s executive vice president.

The organization supported certain provisions of the reform bill and opposed others, he said.

“On the whole, I would say for community bankers, the bill was better, more good than bad,” Forsberg said. “And for consumers, I think there was more good than bad.”