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This is cross posted from an entry I wrote over at BuyBlue, however I felt the information was important enough that we needed to get it as wide of an audience as possible.

As many of you are probably aware, BuyBlue started based on an idea over at DailyKos.com.  Any time there was a discussion about credit cards either on that web site or ours it was inevitable that Working Assets came up as an alternative.  It was also equally inevitable that numerous people would disagree with that recommendation because the credit card product offered by Working Assets was underwritten by MBNA, arguably one of the worst offenders in the credit industry.

Working Assets has been recommended in the past to members of MoveOn.org's mailing list and we rated them as 100% blue on our web site due to political contributions made by their executives.  A lot of people still questioned the relationship with MBNA and rightly so.

(more below the fold)

When our web site started offering the ability to email companies where we had an email address on file, people would often forward those emails back to us after a company had responded.  Many supporters of buying blue put the question "why use MBNA?" to Working Assets and they generally received the standard PR answer.

If you take a look at our FAQ page and read our Vision Statement, it really sums up how we saw our role here.  One of the things we hope to do is be the voice of consumers and deal directly with companies and open a dialog with them on various issues which might concern our community.  However, this doesn't happen unless the community speaks loud enough for the company to pay attention.

You did exactly that with Working Assets - we first received a letter from them in April.  We sent them a letter back in response and we also laid out the concerns that many of you have voiced to us.  I subsequently had a phone conversation with Working Assets President Michael Kieschnick.

Mr. Kieschnick recently sent me something via email for publication meant to help explain the situation with MBNA and I wanted to share that letter with everyone.

Thank you for the review of our company, Working Assets, on your website buyblue.org.  I enjoyed our recent conversation and would like to add a few points to the discussion.

First, it bears noting that Working Assets sees itself as a progressive social change organization - not as a partisan company.  We look at the world through issues and organizing. During the last election cycle, we were very active in nonpartisan ways - we registered well over a million new voters and found and placed 20,000 Election Day poll monitors.

Second, we have worked as a company on campaign finance reform for over a decade, and supported the legislation banning corporate soft-dollar campaign contributions (the way that MBNA made many contributions). Some of our employees on their own time and with their own money volunteer and make partisan contributions - I among them - but we as a company do not.

Third, it is the case that our donation-linked credit card is issued by MBNA, a banking organization that has been a leading contributor in many ways to the Republican Party and candidates.  Fortunately, our own support of campaign finance reform will prohibit MBNA from using corporate money from making direct contributions, although it will not prohibit their executives from doing so.

We as a company also fought very hard over the years against changes in bankruptcy rules, perhaps the primary legislation goal of MBNA and other large banks.

Fourth, it is worth noting that Working Assets did not select MBNA - MBNA purchased our credit card program from Fleet Bank. Under our agreement, we cannot move the cards to another bank nor force MBNA to sell the portfolio to another bank.

Even though we did not select MBNA and have explicitly opposed their primary legislative agenda, we do believe that our program contributes significantly to progressive social change. Our credit card itself, since inception, has generated about $6 million in donations to progressive causes (all nonpartisan). This is precious money for general operating support that they great nonprofits do not have to raise, freeing them to work on the issues we all care deeply about.

Thanks for your great work at Buyblue - we share your view that millions of consumers care deeply about the implications of their spending and investing, and that knowing more can contribute to social change. I hope you can share some of this additional information as well.

Sincerely,

Michael Kieschnick
President
Working Assets

I encourage you to read and comment on this letter, but one of the more important pieces of information is clarification of the relationship with MBNA.  

The fact here is that Working Assets doesn't have a choice in this relationship unfortunately.  However, based on the feedback they have received from everyone, I would be willing to bet they will take this into account at such time as they can move to a new bank.

Does that answer the question "should I support Working Assets?"  The answer: "that is your decision."  What we have now is all of the information laid out for everyone to analyze, and we know that our concerns have been taken straight to the top.  Now all of us have to make a decision that we find ourselves having to make far too often - which principle is more important?

We hope to continue to develop our relationship with Working Assets and continue to bring our concerns to them. I'll also be forwarding a link to this discussion on to Mr. Kieschnick and I'm pretty sure he'll browse through the comments here. So speak your mind, but play nice.

Originally posted to terminal3 on Mon May 30, 2005 at 04:16 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  n/t (4.00)
    So what do you think?

    Take your country back one dollar at a time at BuyBlue.org

    by Raven Brooks on Mon May 30, 2005 at 04:11:56 PM PDT

  •  I haven't held a WA card for a while... (none)
    but thank you very much for sharing!

    America began begins with freedom from King George's empire.

    by bribri on Mon May 30, 2005 at 04:20:24 PM PDT

  •  Follow Up Question (none)
    The question I would ask about the "no choice" situation is: it seems like they have no choice to switch their existing credit cards to another company, but can they use a more progressive company to issue cards for new accounts?
    •  As I understand it... (none)
      Arthur, the best analogy I can give based on my understanding of the situation is as follows:

      You have purchased a home from your bank of choice and at some point down the road your bank sells your mortgage to a bank which you don't like.  The only way you have out of this situation is to hope that the bank sells again or you can refinance with another bank.

      That doesn't completely describe the situation with WA, nor am I defending them, I'm just trying to convey the information I have here.

      I would assume they they can't issue new cards through a new bank for valid reasons (although I wouldn't really be qualified to answer here) including:

      • terms of the legal agreement they signed
      • the cost of doing so
      • finding a bank interested in doing this

      Take your country back one dollar at a time at BuyBlue.org

      by Raven Brooks on Mon May 30, 2005 at 04:47:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Clarifying (none)
        What I was trying to get at was this:

        • The Working Assets brand belongs to Working Assets.  The decision to attach it to a product belongs with Working Assets and Working Assets alone.

        • I can understand that MBNA paid for the right to administer existing accounts.

        • What is not clear is whether MBNA paid to lock Working Assets into sending them all their new account sign-ups.  If that's the case, then Working Assets signed a bad deal.

        • If Working Assets does not have an exclusive deal with MBNA for new accounts, they should find another company.  

        • If they do have a deal, what are their options?  Could they tell MBNA "we're not offering credit cards anymore, until we can partner with a company more aligned with our values?"  Or, can they offer a different type of card - Mastercard vs. Visa vs. Discover vs. AMEX?  Or, has MBNA licensed the use of the Working Assets name and can use it however they want?

        These type of deals can be frustrating.  I once had to administer a perpetual licensing deal that made me cringe every time I thought about it: the lawyer who negotiated the deal sold the farm...forever, to this licensee.  Let's hope that Working Assets didn't sell their farm.

        However much money Working Assets is getting from the MBNA deal, we have to remember that MBNA is getting even more.  Every dollar Working Assets donates toward progressive causes is drowned out by the money MBNA and its executives throw at corporatist causes.  There is no net gain.  I wonder whether some creative thinking could help Working Assets serve its goals while not helping the opposition.

  •  I just wrote MBNA (none)
    to cancel my gold points VISA. I dont have a working assets one.

    I told them it was due to their support of the Republican Party.

    Health Care For All! http://www.cnhpnow.org/

    by erich398 on Mon May 30, 2005 at 05:20:23 PM PDT

  •  phone card only (none)
    I use Working Assets as my long distance carrier and resist using the WA credit card. I have been pretty pleased with them for some time as a long distance and phone card provider.
  •  I whole-heartedly recommend Working Assets (4.00)
    I have both long distance and credit card and have received excellent service.

    If you pay your card off each month, WA still makes its contribution but MBNA gets only a portion of the discount fee (a fraction of a percent). The good WA does is vastly greater than any harm MBNA can do. And $6 million dollars is a substantial gift to causes that we know and love (and get to vote on).

    Those donations are found money to the recipients that they would not get but for WA. You would probably not write a check to an org for 10 cents. But the pooled contributions of 10 cents from you and  millions of others creates this treasury of donations.

    Everyone should sign up. The more people that do so, the more money there will be to fight MBNA's agenda.

  •  Props to Buy Blue and Working Assets (none)
    For starting and continuing the conversation.  I have Working Assets Long Distance and Cell (used to have local as well until the disastrous telecom ruling).  

    We refer to buy blue weekly and stopped shopping Home Despot and Ace as a result.

    I do have a suggestion.  Could you expand your portfolio to include American made goods as well? This would have a double affect:  promoting home grown and at the same time giving the wingnuts something to choke on (We Democrats buy American...)

    The GOP betrayed us all.

    by lubarsh on Mon May 30, 2005 at 06:13:25 PM PDT

    •  n/t (none)
      We're definitely going to be doing that this summer (july or so) with the rollout of our new website.  We're going to be including all kinds of new ratings (http://www.buyblue.org/meth_v2.html) and one of those ratings is going to have to do with labor issues.  That would include both unions and outsourcing/american made type of information.

      We're also seeking to partner with union organizations, I've been talking with quite a few people in leadership positions within unions over the last few weeks.  We're hoping to help them get a whole lot of the information they have out to people everywhere.

      Finally we are working on creating BuyBlue chapters to provide information on local businesses.  The first one of these will be in Colorado and then we'll expand nationally from there once we get the first one rolled out.  From a website perspective it will work a lot like citysearch or yahoo local.

      Take your country back one dollar at a time at BuyBlue.org

      by Raven Brooks on Mon May 30, 2005 at 06:20:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Fanfriggintastic!!! (none)
        The GOP questions our patriotism and fidelity???  

        Know them by what they do!

        I have compiled a number of Made in the USA weblinks if you want 'em.

        Thanks again for everything you are doing.

        The GOP betrayed us all.

        by lubarsh on Mon May 30, 2005 at 06:40:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Working Assets, MBNA (4.00)
    We at Buyblue have also been in conversation with someone in the executive office of MBNA.  Should that conversation become an ongoing dialogue, as I would like it to, then the potential exists to discuss changes that might suit us all better than the current situation.  

    And maybe not, of course.  I do not regret ending my customer relationship with MBNA.  It's unfortunate that it causes consternation to Working Assets.  However, as consumers, we have choices about how we spend our money.  I don't want to benefit MBNA.  

    I don't know the details of the Working Assets relationship with MBNA.  I don't know how WA could get out of that business relationship and into another.  But I am sure the question is How, not If.  As I said in my initial letter to MBNA CEO Bruce Hammonds, we would very much like to encourage and work with them toward more socially responsible practices.

    Meanwhile. Marketwatch has characterized my articles on this subject as "Buyblue research director Martha Ture . .leading the charge against Working Assets."  

    Bunk.  

    Try driving that wedge elsewhere.

    At 4:20 pm on a Tuesday I dropped preparation for a committee meeting to write to Marketwatch in protest and to phone Michael Kieschnick's office and assure all that I was not leading any charges against Working Assets.  I invite anyone who finds this at all interesting to read the Buyblue post Credit Card Clarity.  

    We certainly have hit a nerve on this subject, eh?

    Martha E. Ture
    Research Director
    Buyblue.org

    This is us governing. Live so that 100 years from now, someone might be proud of us.

    by marthature on Mon May 30, 2005 at 06:20:39 PM PDT

  •  MBNA = crooks (none)
    I still have a credit card through MBNA which I am trying to pay off as quickly as possible. The story is too long to go into, but I would never recommend that anyone deal with The MBNA banking institution. I don't support Working Assets any longer either because they never responded to my concerns when I wrote to them. I wrote them more than once.

    Infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the advocates of truth and justice... Robert Ingersol

    by BMarshall on Mon May 30, 2005 at 07:41:17 PM PDT

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