Here, HuffPo’s brings the same issue into sharp relief through sober fact-gathering. Senators are heard speak frankly about representing one interest or the other. It’s a given.

“I’ve got friends on both sides of it and, you know, it is what it is,” says a visibly anguished Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) when asked about the bill to delay swipe fee reform. Home Depot, headquartered in Atlanta, is a leading player on the merchant side, and both the company and its co-founder, Bernard Marcus, have invested heavily in Chambliss’ Senate career. “I voted to support it and I’m gonna continue to support it.”

HuffPost asks what he says to the bankers. “I’ve voted. And I’m sticking with it,” he says. “Oooh, the bankers aren’t happy.”

Chambliss’ fellow Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson is also staying with Home Depot. “It’s part of the job,” Isakson says of resisting the bank pressure. “That’s why they pay us the big bucks.”

Surprisingly, Arkansas’s senators are similarly torn.

“Walmart’s a huge employer in our state. It’s a consideration, but it’s one of many considerations,” says [Democrat Mark] Pryor, who is known on the Hill as one of two “senators from Walmart.”

What kind of consideration could be a bigger concern for an Arkansas senator than Walmart? “We have a lot of banks and credit unions in our state as well,” he explains.

One quibble: this piece could be cut, mostly via tightening from the bottom starting at “The swipe fee faceoff is a major test…” You could probably get 2,000 words out of it.
Just saying. This isn’t like the emperor complaining to Mozart that there are too many notes.

That aside, kudos to HuffPo for going deep in Washington.

Further reading:

—Ryan breaks down the Journal’s great job on interchange fees in 2009.

—The Times’s stellar “Card Game” series with Frontline included a piece that laid out the issue of Visa’s dominance back in January 2010.

—Felix expounds on Dick Durbin’s body slam of Jamie Dimon on the topic.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.