GOP Sen. Toomey warns banks against getting involved in social issues

"Unfortunately, there's a growing trend of banks ... inserting themselves into highly charged social and political issues unrelated to their businesses," said Pennsylvania lawmaker.
Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)

Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey warned banks they risked being treated as "public utilities" should they become to involved in political activism.

In a Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs hearing on Thursday, Toomey addressed the leaders of major American financial institutions and cautioned them against excessive political involvement, according to the Epoch Times.

"At the outset, let me acknowledge what should be obvious: Banks are essential for supporting the economy and advancing American competitiveness," Toomey said. "But where I see a system at the heart of free enterprise, I worry other policymakers see opportunity for social engineering. Activist regulators and some of my colleagues see banks as a tool by which they can advance their social policy.

"Unfortunately, there's a growing trend of banks ... inserting themselves into highly charged social and political issues unrelated to their businesses. Banks' willingness to help liberal policymakers achieve their liberal goals makes it very difficult to mount a principled defense against such politicization."

Banks, Toomey asserted, are "currently at a critical crossroads: Accept the role that some liberals prefer which is to have your institutions implement social policy on behalf of the State, or embrace your history as drivers and promoters of free enterprise and stay out of highly charged social and political issues."

The Pennsylvania Republican's comments come following a push from left-wing groups to create a separate merchant category code (MCC) by which major credit card companies may track the purchase of firearms. The effort has caused concern from gun owners that the code will be used as a check on their Second Amendment rights.

Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser addressed these concerns in the hearing, saying, "we do not intend to use the code to limit or restrict the purchase of firearms," per the outlet.

Toomey found at least one sympathetic ear among his audience in the form of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who pointed out that while federal regulators were able to push for organizations like his to take certain actions on social issues, power resided within Congress to constrain them from doing so.

"Speaking for myself, [regulators] are my judge, my jury, and my hangman," he told Toomey. "They can do whatever they want unless constrained by you."

The financial sector is not the only industry to face scrutiny over political activism. Social media platforms have long taken flak over their censorship policies, which have prompted calls from lawmakers to strip them of immunity for third-party content.