What Would Dino Do About Banking?

Rossi's record is mixed on financial regulation.

GOP senatorial hopeful Dino Rossi criticized incumbent Senator Patty Murray's vote last week for the banking reform bill. He cited 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 other elements of the bill—such as a cap on bank size and separation of investment-banking activities—"Rossi demurred," according to the TNT. Figuring out what Rossi might do in the U.S. Senate based on his record in the state Senate isn't easy. The subject didn't come up a lot, since banking is largely a federal issue. Regulation bills passed in Olympia were mostly administrative in nature, had unanimous support, and were unopposed by the industry. Two somewhat controversial votes offer some insight. In 1997, Democrats in the state Senate introduced a bill prohibiting the biggest banks operating in Washington from charging non-customers fees for use of their ATMs. 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 for the right to use them. A number of Republicans supported the ban. But Rossi joined 14 other senators in voting against. The bill died in committee, and now you pay the equivalent of a matinee movie ticket to get money from an ATM not owned by your bank. In 2000, though, Rossi switched sides. Being a guy who likes to keep things close to the vest, he supported a bill to restrict banks and other retailers from selling customers' personal information. However, his support did not help the bill overcome industry opposition. It stalled in the House and died.

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