EL PASO, TX. – Cindy Ramos-Davidson, her DVDs and her slightly-fanatical interest in monetary policy helped get Ben Bernanke to Texas this week.
"I died and went to monetary heaven," Ramos-Davidson said Thursday at the Fed chairman's town hall meeting with military families at the Army's Ft. Bliss. "Monetary policy sets the tone for the economic world."
Ramos-Davidson is the president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in El Paso. She sits on the board of the Fed bank branch in El Paso.
Sources said that early this year, Richard Fisher, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, proposed Bernanke visit troops in Texas, home to several military installations. Bernanke has held numerous town halls nationally as part of his campaign for more openness at the central bank.
Bank officials invited Ramos-Davidson to a meeting in Dallas in March to pitch Ft. Bliss; they told her the day before that Bernanke was attending, she said. She brought with her two copies of a promotional DVD called "Team Bliss," produced by the base.
Ft. Bliss is the city's largest employer. With 30,000 troops, the base has pumped billions into the local economy. She gave one DVD to Fisher and the other to Bernanke as part of a three-minute presentation, she said.
Afterward, she kept pitching: "Every time we'd have a meeting with bank officials, we'd keep Ft. Bliss at the forefront."
"It would not have happened if Cindy hadn't worked with El Paso and the Fort," said James Hoard, a spokesman for the Dallas Fed bank. A spokesman for the base said, "She got the ball rolling."
"You talk about boots on the ground with the military and boots on the ground with minority-owned businesses--some of those boots on the ground (at the lunch) were high-heels on the ground!"
- Cindy Ramos-Davidson, President of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Some Fed watchers have speculated that Bernanke's visit to Ft. Bliss had some political motives--in particular, to rebuke two prominent Fed bashers from Texas, Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Ron Paul, both of them candidates for the Republican nomination for president.
In August, Perry suggested Bernanke's push for significant monetary easing to help the economy was "treasonous" and that Bernanke would get an "ugly" reception in Texas. Paul, a libertarian, wants to abolish the Fed altogether.
A Fed spokesperson would not comment. Fed officials told the Associated Press that the chairman simply wanted to visit Ft. Bliss to discuss financial literacy with military families there and shine a spotlight on the base's well-regarded financial literacy program.
Though Ramos-Davidson said plans for the visit began to solidify in August and September, rebuking politicians was "never...the impetus for Chairman Bernanke to come down...It was all about his opportunity to share his thanks with the military."
Ramos-Davidson organized a luncheon with Bernanke and local business leaders, men and women, after the town hall on the base.
"You talk about boots on the ground with the military and boots on the ground with minority-owned businesses--some of those boots on the ground (at the lunch) were high-heels on the ground!" she said.
She said Bernanke listened intently at the entrepreneurs' concerns about tight credit, health care, immigration, access to capital and other issues.
"They're the ones who are going to get us out of this," she said.