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Everybody hates big banks. That's why the banking reform bill passed by Congress last week is so popular. (It's also why a bar owner is

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Dino Rossi's Mixed Record on Bank Regulation

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Everybody hates big banks. That's why the banking reform bill passed by Congress last week is so popular. (It's also why a bar owner is offering free steak dinners to people who drop Chase.) So this week, in our effort to determine what kind of congressman Republican Senate-hopeful Dino Rossi would be based on his time in the state legislature, we looked into his votes on the banking industry. Turns out he's spent a little time in bed with the fat cats, but he's also voted against them.

Rossi criticized incumbent Senator Patty Murray's vote for the bill passed last week citing a Fortune article saying that the bill doesn't ban the possibility of future federal bailouts. But when the Tacoma News Tribune asked him about all the other new regulations--specifically a cap on how big a bank can get and new rules keeping riskier investment banks and traditional savings and loan banks separate--"Rossi demurred," according to the TNT.

Figuring out what he might do based on his legislative record isn't easy. There isn't much in the state bills database on the topic--banking being largely a federal issue. Regulation bills passed in Olympia were mostly administrative in nature, had unanimous support, and were unopposed by the banking industry. But two somewhat controversial votes show Rossi had a bit of an on-again, off-again relationship with Wall Street.

In 1997 State Senate Democrats introduced a bill that would have prevented the biggest banks operating in the state from charging fees at their ATMs to non-customers. Legislators thought it unfair that banks like (now defunct) Seafirst and Washington Mutual were getting exclusive contracts to put their ATMs into malls or grocery stores, then charging fees to people who didn't bank with them to get cash out of those ATMs.

Supporters of the bill said big banks used those ATMs to force people to switch from credit unions or smaller banks. And a number of Republicans supported the bill. The banks claimed they weren't stifling competition enough to justify additional regulations on the industry.

But Rossi joined 14 other senators in voting "nay." The bill died in committee and now we pay the equivalent of a matinee movie ticket to get money out of an ATM not owned by our bank.

In 2000 Rossi switched sides. He voted for an industry-opposed bill that would have prevented banks and other retailers from selling customers' personal information. It stalled in the House and died.

 
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