In Transitions

In Washington, DC, the Presidential Transition anxiety seems particularly high. At a reception last night, the comments from advocates, lobbyists, and journalists centered on the “unknown” more than anything else.

Two memories about the politics surrounding CDFIs are on my mind this morning:

The first is that sequence of good luck that the CDFI industry had in late 1992 and early 1993 when the incoming Bill Clinton Administration decided to make creation of The CDFI Fund a high priority. Time and again, we happened to be in the right place at the right time with just enough of the right information to carry the day. (I will tell this story in detail in the book I am writing about CDFIs.) That good fortune is also a reminder how tenuous even the best advocacy strategy is during a Presidential transition.

The second is the role that CDFIs played in the 1995 standoff over domestic spending between emboldened House Republicans (who had done very well in the 1994 midterm elections) and determined President Clinton. Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, made a concerted effort to shut down The CDFI Fund (before it had even made its first round of awards). He was opposed to it on principle (it was a new program that he wanted to eliminate before it took root) and on politics (it was Clinton’s pet prgoram). Clinton stood firm, insisting that the Fund, along with Social Security and Medicare, was off the table.

Today, Gingrich plays a substantive role in the Trump Transition. It is unlikely that the Fund will show up on the radar screen that features much more prominent and bigger programs, but CDFIs need to be thinking that anything could happen.

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