Bank Tax Breaks Prompt Activist Group to Launch Sneak "Attacks"

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The activist group Washington Community Action Network is planning a "sneak attack" at a yet unnamed Seattle bank at 5 p.m. this afternoon. It will be the fourth time in recent weeks that the group has hauled out its microphone and started haranguing bank executives. The point, according to WCAN organizer Jill Mangaliman, is to "demand that banks share in the sacrifice" by giving up tax breaks--an idea that is already before the legislature. But are WCAN's attacks really the best strategy?

Mangaliman allows that the first time the group pulled off such a stunt, "it got ugly." About 20 people crashed a "winter schmooze fest" put on by Chase in late January on the 42nd floor of the Chase building. "We went in with a megaphone and asked to speak with (Chase) Northwest regional director Phyllis Campbell." (See video.)

Campbell declined the request. Instead, Chase called the cops. Mangaliman says nobody was arrested, but nothing seems to have been gained either. The group again found themselves talking to the cops, rather than bank executives, when its members subsequently showed up at a Chase branch in Tacoma (pictured above) and a Bank of America branch in Bellevue.

"We're going to keep hitting them until they sit down with us," Mangaliman says. And what if they did? Would bank executives suddenly see the light and voluntarily agree to fork over millions in extra tax dollars?

It seems like the people WCAN really needs to be yelling at are the people who can force banks to do so: legislators. Rep. Eileen Cody, a Seattle Democrat, has proposed a bill that would end tax breaks for banks on mortgage interest above $100 million.

But House Bill 1847, which also ends tax loopholes related to plastic surgery and a Centralia power plant and uses the money to save the Basic Health program (see pdf), faces an uphill political battle. It's a non-starter for Republicans, according to The Olympian. Gregoire has already said she's not interested. And the legislature killed a similar effort last year.

WCAN might want to take its microphone and head to Olympia.

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