At a hearing in late March, the nation’s credit card companies faced the threat of expensive new rules from an unlikely regulator: the House Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).
The committee had never before dealt with credit card issues, but Thompson warned Visa, MasterCard and others that Congress might need to impose tighter security standards costing millions of dollars to protect customers from identity theft.
Behind the scenes, some of Thompson’s staff members sensed a different motive — an attempt to pressure the companies into making political donations to the chairman, according to several former committee staff members.
Now the House ethics committee is investigating the propriety of the committee’s operations, and whether its members’ interactions with companies compromised its work. Within a few weeks of the hearing, Thompson collected $15,000 in donations from the credit card industry and its Washington-based lobbyists, a Washington Post analysis shows. No legislation on card security has been introduced.