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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Medlin, May 24, 1999. Interview I-0076. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Wachovia bans political donations but communicates with politicians

While Medlin had open lines of communication with a number of politicians, Wachovia maintained a policy banning donations and public support for political candidates.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Medlin, May 24, 1999. Interview I-0076. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JOSEPH MOSNIER:
Key relationships that evolved in these years with say the congressional delegation North Carolina was sending up to Washington.
JOHN MEDLIN:
It was important if someone was going to be deciding your destiny, it was important to be able to talk with them about it. So back through the years, Everett Jordan, Senator Jordan was a member of our board at one time. So he was obviously, he and Archie Davis were very close friends. I knew him affectionately and reasonably well. Senator Morgan was a senator back in the late '70s when I first became Chief Executive. We were dealing with issues like community reinvestment and the things that took place in the Carter administration where there were attempts to put even more regulations on us rather than taking the old ones off. Senator Helms obviously when he came into office always had good reasonably close relationships. Senator East wasn't there that long but knew him. More recently Senator Faircloth and Senator Sanford. But it's always been very easy to talk with them and visit with them and with their staff people and issues of importance to the state and the industry. Some of them were on Banking at one time or another, Banking committees. The congressional delegation was larger and always knew the one from the Fifth District of North Carolina where Winston-Salem is located and others that I may have known but not as much time with them as the Senators. Those were usually worked with by other members of the management, their local constituents in Raleigh or Charlotte or Asheville or wherever they may be. [unclear] would have more contact with them. But we always tried to have communications lines there again not necessarily to get a favor or favored treatment because I don't think you ever can even if you wanted to but at least not to get disfavored treatment.
JOSEPH MOSNIER:
Did you always feel generally fair to see that you got a hearing with these folks, had that kind of access to make your point, make your argument?
JOHN MEDLIN:
Yes. Never had difficulty getting a hearing in Raleigh or in Washington. They didn't always do what we would liked for them to have done.
JOSEPH MOSNIER:
How about the issue about the bank's involvement supporting specific financial candidates with contributions to their campaigns? Was that an issue that was ever difficult to navigate?
JOHN MEDLIN:
No. The bank had a policy of not giving any corporate money to candidates, soft money or hard money, [unclear] or campaign money. The bank had a policy of not in the name of Wachovia supporting anyone. Individual employees had their own personal rights to support whomever they would like. It was also generally a policy that the Chief Executive Officer would not be publicly on the campaign finance committee or closely identified with any candidate because people didn't necessarily distinguish the Chief Executive from the bank. So you'd have more-so we were always very careful to avoid the briar patch of politics. Mr. Watlington, my predecessor was visited with in 1972 by Mr. Stans, Maurice Stans, who was the fundraiser for Richard Nixon at the time. He said that he had Wachovia down, this is all a matter of public record, had Wachovia down for 'x' amount, I can't remember. Mr. Watlington said, 'We don't give.' He said, 'You just find a place to get it.' This was witnessed I think later on when they were investigating and other companies were not as careful. When I say it keeps you out of trouble if you do that consistently. Now I supported candidates because I, I gave money to them. Others gave money to them. We had a PAC at one time, and then decided it was too much trouble, the reporting. Then one was started back five years or so ago. PACs have, they get criticized, but this is employees' money. The bank can only provide some administrative cost to keep books and that sort of things, just on the corporate money. But I really have no complaints about the political process. I really think the alternative to what we have would not be better or as good I don't think.