Economic intervention forum organized by GOP donor

02/18/09 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:


A major donor to Republican causes organized a panel discussion today at a Cruise Terminal at the Port of Tampa. The forum focused on the federal government’s recent interventions into the economy, including last year’s bailout of financial institutions, labeled the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

Former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco was among those invited to speak.

A panel made up of bankers, business owners, economists, and others disagreed about whether one of the main goals of the TARP – to get banks to resume lending – had succeeded.

The forum’s moderator, Channel 8 news anchor Keith Cate, asked people in the audience if their business had difficulties obtaining loans from banks recently. About half raised their hands.

One banker suggested a cure for the collapsed real estate market that many economists accuse of causing the economic downfall. Jerry Campbell, chair and CEO of HomeBancorp, suggests giving homeowners long-term, low-interest loans. “I’ve recommended a 3 percent, 50-year mortgage.”

Ike Brannon is a former economist for the Treasury Department and a supporter of the John McCain presidential campaign. Brannon claims that as of last July “no one really thought we were in a recession yet.” But by September, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson proposed the predecessor to the TARP.

Dan Mitchell, from the Libertarian CATO Institute, said the best thing the government could do is get out of the way, even if it’s painful.

Of all the panelists, Mitchell got the most applause from the crowd. Last summer Gov. Charlie Crist began a program called Accelerate Florida to begin work on projects that had been approved but construction had not started. Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp says that that program, combined with federal stimulus money, will help the state’s economy.

Crist, a Republican, is very supportive of the $789 billion federal stimulus package signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday, even though only three Senate Republicans and no House Republicans voted for it. Crist has taken some heat from his party for that position and Kottkamp supports the governor.

The forum organized by developer Don Phillips, a contributor to Republican candidates, was attended by 300-400 bankers, business people, and elected officials.

WMNF located only two high-profile Democrats, and asked whether they were concerned that the only elected officials invited to speak were Republicans and the audience seemed to lean toward the GOP.

Former state Sen. Les Miller, a Democrat, is running for Kevin White’s seat on the Hillsborough County Commission.

“Do we not have Democrats here? It is a concern. I do understand why some of them are not here. But at least you have elected officials here.”

But Bay News 9 political analyst and former Tampa City Council member Bob Buckhorn, a Democrat, is not concerned about the imbalance. “I don’t look at it that way.”

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Event Organizer

For the record,I personally met with Cathy Castors chief aide for over two hours, I was told she was in town yesterday and had informed a number she might attend,she choose not too. In fairness Sen. Martinez rejected our invitation for 30 days with seven seperate attempts. Sen. Nelson did send a local represenitive and for that we are thankful. I frankly dont know a lot of Democrat business leaders and did have the three largest labor unions as our co-sponsor, I invited all members of congress and all of our Senators. We have no pride of authorship,I am curious why more of our leadership of both parties was not in attendence.Thanks to all that attended and keep this conversation moving!We all bleed the same color.