Ballad of a Trump Man

I can scrape up only a few possible reasons that Laredo banker Dennis Nixon is co-hosting a San Antonio fundraiser this Friday for Donald Trump.

What makes figuring this out so difficult is that International Bancshares Corp., the Nixon-led holding company for IBC Bank, grew up on the border and its customers are largely Hispanic. Trump would be as welcome in most Hispanic communities as Zika or scabies. IBC became a regional financial-services powerhouse with business on both sides of the border because of NAFTA. Trump talks about NAFTA as fondly as he would Zika or scabies.

trump carzy
Donald Trump makes a kissy face.

So here are the possibilities:

  1. Treasury Secretary Nixon.
  2. He has it all worked out. Get Trump elected, and he’ll build that big border wall. As IBC’s many customers on the Mexican side scramble to figure how to pay for it, Nixon will swoop in with an attractive loan package.
  3. Nixon is one of the many mainstream Republicans who are like the bewildered and totally-menaced Mr. Jones in Bob Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin Man. You concentrate on doing the usual things, like co-hosting fundraisers for your party’s standard-bearer, because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?

Nixon is not like Trump. He isn’t a loud-mouth or a racist who questions the loyalty of Mexican-Americans. Nixon doesn’t jump on Twitter or Facebook first thing in the morning to attack his critics or say something horrible. Verbally burning off somebody’s face probably isn’t Nixon’s idea of a productive workday.

But by co-hosting a fundraiser for Donald Trump, Nixon is giving Trump a fistful of passes — for racism, sexism, xenophobia, and making our politics dumber and uglier than they already were — and telling other donors it’s OK to do the same.

He’s also putting his imprimatur on a candidate who would be a disaster for his publicly traded company.

This is how IBC describes its business in its most recent quarterly report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, filed last month:

The Company is very active in facilitating trade along the United States border with Mexico.  The Company does a large amount of business with customers domiciled in Mexico.  Deposits from persons and entities domiciled in Mexico comprise a large and stable portion of the deposit base of the Company’s bank subsidiaries.  The Company also serves the growing Hispanic population through the Company’s facilities located throughout South, Central and Southeast Texas and the State of Oklahoma.

Does this sound like a company that would want Trump as its champion?

Trump clearly wasn’t Nixon’s first choice in Republican primary. He gave Sen. Marco Rubio $6,100 between April 10, 2015, and June 30, 2015, though Rubio’s campaign returned $2,700 for some reason, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In October, he wrote Ohio Gov. John Kasich a check for $2,700. (Personal call: Kasich, yes. Rubio, God no.)

Looking through his contributions to federal candidates over the years, Nixon prefers Republicans but also gives to Democrats, namely Congressmen along the border, where IBC is most active. So, why does his pragmatism fail him in the presidential race?

Last week, Express-News columnist Brian Chasnoff excerpted a fundraising letter from Nixon. He tells potential Trump supporters what to expect if Hillary Clinton wins the White House.

“First, we will NOT get the regulatory relief we need to get our economy moving again,” (Nixon wrote), “and second, we will get MORE burdensome regulations, MORE bad decisions from a liberal Supreme Court and MORE spending on social programs, driving us deeper into debt.”

Nixon didn’t mention giveaways to banks in times of financial crisis, like the $216 million IBC accepted from the Treasury Department in late 2008 (and has since repaid). Probably an oversight.

Anyway, maybe we’re getting down to the real reason for Nixon’s support of Trump. Strip away the HYPERBOLE, and you find a lender who is worried about the constraints of Dodd-Frank banking reforms and the cost of compliance, and wants a rollback.

He’s also probably got the face of Sen. Elizabeth Warren scowling at him whenever he closes his eyes. As leader of the Democrats’ liberal wing, the Massachusetts senator –and Wall Street antagonist — would have influence in a Clinton administration. But probably not enough to undo Clinton’s ties to investment bankers and hedge-fund managers.

Which is a problem for Democrats, not Republicans.

How exactly does the threat of more financial regulations outweigh the threat Trump poses to the border economy? It doesn’t, unless you believe that Trump isn’t serious, that underneath that economic-populist shell, a free-trader is waiting to pop out.

Oh, Mr. Jones…


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