Support Small Business & Consumers: Tell Sen. Jon Tester NO!

by jhwygirl

I signed up some time ago for google news alerts on Jon Tester. The stories stacking up there lately are not something I like to see given the amount of personal time and effort I put towards his campaign. I mean, I was making calls for Jon Tester back when the reply was “Jon who??” Someone needs to say something, so here goes.

Banking reform passed congress last year and was signed into law. It was some pretty weak stuff. It was forward moving, I can give it that….but the banks also didn’t whine too much.

Until now.

Banking reform included implementation of limits on bank card swipe fees. Those debit cards? They cost retailers – and by association, consumers – pretty hefty fees. Banks want a delay in implementing limitations on these swipe fees.

Our Senator Jon Tester? He has been trying to delay implementation of this aspect of banking reform by introducing his own legislation. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid was none too please, but did agree, recently, to give it a floor vote.

Want to know how I’d like my Senator Jon Tester to be handling this issue? Take a read of Senator Dick Durbin’s open letter to Jamie Dimon, CEO and President of JP Morgan Chase & Co.

Seriously. Read it. Frankly – I hope Senator Tester reads it. Durbin dismantles banking’s argument against implementation bit-by-bit.

Who else is wanting to see delayed implementation of swipe fee limitations? Who’s championing Sen. Jon Tester’s legislation? The Heritage Foundation.

Whining about losing rewards? Wow. Talk about priorities.

Senate returns next week. The showdown on these fees is inevitable. Interestingly, last night the New York Post reported that Jon Tester is so hell-bent for getting these banks a delay in limiting their swipe fees – that he’s pushed to attach his Heritage-approved legislation as a rider to the Economic Development Reauthorization bill.

Roll Call confirms the rider story: “The provision is likely to come up as a rider on one of two noncontroversial bills, according to industry lobbyists. And with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle supporting the delay, the outcome is still very much up for grabs.”

Now is the time to contact both Senator Tester and Senator Baucus.

And meanwhile – media? While I appreciate you pointing out that Sen. Tester is doing something that we here in Montana pretty much didn’t elect him to do, it’s not really fair that all you pull out of Rehberg is that he “hasn’t taken a position on this yet.”

Seems to me that’s pretty incompetent of Rehberg – and given he’s challenging Tester and he, too, is in congress, Montanans deserve an answer…and a more visible push to get it from him.

Given all the opportunity of late with flooding, surely getting at him again with what his position is on swipe fees isn’t too hard. Same with Baucus. Inquiring Montanans want to know.

  1. I read the letter that Sen. Durbin’s wrote to Jamie Dimon and, from a purely economic standpoint, I can’t find that it has the power that your reading portends. Specifically, his general posture is that the Visa/Mastercard duopoly is “inefficient” causing a negative cost to the consumer. I have no way of knowing for sure if that’s true but following other economic examples I think that’s right.

    But if the duopoly is at the heart of the issue the Durbin amendment doesn’t address it. In fact, it does nothing to: A) increase competition by breaking the duopoly, B) address the uncompetitive practice of duopolistic price fixing and C) does not create an environment for increased competition to reduce barriers to entry.

    What the law does is simply shift the cost from the retailer to the financial institution while leaving the intermediaries – Visa/Mastercard intact.

    On the surface this appears to present a marginal benefit to customers in lower retail prices. But the experience in Australia – the only real example from which we can call upon historically – shows that the retailers simply pocketed the difference, the banks charged higher fees on other products and consumers experienced a net negative.

    GMU economist Todd Zywicki did a fairly exhaustive analysis of Australia’s experience with this type of regulation.

    It seems to me (and you’re likely familiar with my bias that government will usually get things wrong) that Durbin is aiming at the wrong target.

    I’ll be honest, I have no idea what Tester thinks or why. Thus, I’m not defending him. But if the Australian experience is at all instructive, this new regulation will hurt lower income people much more that it will hurt the banks.

    • JC

      Well, the battle is between the financial institutions and banks, for sure, with the consumer caught in the middle. That’s half the problem with this issue, is that it hasn’t been consumer focused, and on the top pits the likes of Walmart against Chase–how does the consumer win in a battle that is defined like that?

      On the other hand, there are smaller financial institutions and small business played against each other. In this case, it is pretty obvious that the consumer benefits when small businesses aren’t short changed when laws and regs are built for the mega banks. Swipe fees play largely into the equation of competing on Main Street.

      But you idea of duopoly is interesting. Somehow I don’t think that Washington, or the teaparty/republican coalition would ever go along with legislation attempting to break up a duopoly–that’s just more big government interference.

      And the next point that gets me going about this issue is that of “making up lost revenue.” It’s not like the big banks aren’t enjoying record profits. And swipe fees contribute to those huge profits. And if banks want to get rid of free/inexpensive products like checking or ATM transactions, then they’ll have to explain that to most of their customers that they are going to lose their perks in order to maintain the status quo with profits (and keep perks for their wealthier customers). It’s obvious that record profits are not reflective of a marketplace that is being sensitive to consumer needs.

      And of course, the basis of this whole problem is that of financialization. I don’t think that consumers are aware of the depth of how the financial markets and institutions have turned into a industry unto themselves with no actual productivity outside of leveraging money and assets to make more money.

      How’s that go? Oh yeah: what’s the last truly innovative thing to come out of the finance industry? The ATM, more than 40 years ago. That may be a bit flippant (but mostly true), but when people think about how financial innovation–or getting some sort of value to the consumer out of the financial system–it becomes pretty stark.

      Financialization has been a boon for a very small segment of the populace, and unless you are a hard-core supply-sider, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of us, or for our country in general, as financialization breeds crony capitalism, which has run amok in our legislative system. And it is the sweetheart backbone for the oligarchs of neoliberalism.

      So if Durbin were to really want to get to the root of the problem, he’d need to tackle financialization, and we see how well reforming Wall Street went the last go-around. “Too big to fail” is still with us. And excessive swipe fees just breeds bigger banks.

      • I don’t disagree with most of that except that it’s not just the big banks. That’s why Jon is getting political support from credit unions. And I suggest you need to rethink your position that little retailers are better off for this. They aren’t since virtually all of them have to go through third party processors that will first raise prices on sectors that don’t have buying power.

        And I’m with you 100% that not much relief could ever be expected from the GOP re: addressing the duopoly pricing problem. But I think that relief from Dems is every bit as evasive regardless of intentions.

        If you haven’t heard me say it before, which I have quite a lot, I think that big banks should be/have been able to fail and Dodd-Frank almost assuredly makes sure they won’t. Neither the market or the consumer has many friends in the government-financial nexus.

        • JC

          Well, as to the little retailers, I’ve worked with many to build e-commerce sites, and to a person, they all are more concerned about their bottom line swipe expenses than they are about the backdoor effect these regs would have on purchasing power.

          HOw many places do you go in now that have minimums for card useage? ANd how high are those limits going?

          And if you want to get right down into the nuts and bolts of the swipe process, the swipe fee as it is being discussed, is only one part of the whole POS (point of sale) and e-commerce process and expense. It actually is really difficult for a small business to get into e-commerce without getting over a certain threshold of sales in order to make it profitable (or just use PayPal or Amazon… yuck). And just try and integrate a small business’s POS with their e-commerce site. Nightmares. And potentially open-ended cash-sinks.

          Everybody wants to get their fingers on your cash flow, one way or another. The whole system needs to be torn apart and rebuilt properly–but that ain’t never going to happen anytime soon.

          Here’s a great anecdotal story about how the whole card and swipe fee problem bit a Hot Springs gas station in the butt recently.

  2. Cheryl

    Here we go, the Electronic Payments Coalition, an advocacy group comprising credit unions, banks, and payment card networks, has an ad on TV: “Call Senator Tester and thank him for working for Montana families” —- hell, we voters are so stupid, why not ask him for even MORE fees while we’re at it? This is sickening. And Tester, as if he exists in some Orwellian alternative reality, pretends that delaying the regulations imposing “reasonable” limits on interchange fees is consistent with opposition to bailouts for big banks: “Make no mistake, the big banks are going to do fine no matter what. That is why I opposed bailing them out.”

  3. this shameless pandering will pay for lots of tv ads.

    somebody said this senate race will cost over 5 million each.
    ten million dollars for one race in montana.
    that is what it’s all about now. money.

    some people want this poor little blog to shut up about the truth. i want jon tester to start occasionally acting like the guy i voted for, but once most politicians get elected and start living in washington dc it seems they don’t listen to anybody unless large checks are involved………

    nobody is rich here. so i ask those who would silence us….
    how else do we reach them?

  4. JC

    From The Hill on April 21:

    Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has reaped a windfall in contributions from banks and lobbyists since introducing legislation to delay new regulations on debit-card swipe fees.

    Tester collected nearly $60,000 in contributions from credit card companies and other opponents of the proposed caps on swipe fees in the 17 days following the introduction of his bill, public fundraising records show.

    And of course, now he’s opened himself up to pay-to-play charges from the MT GOP:

    Even more alarming is that in the week leading up to and the week after the bill was introduced on March 15th, 2011, Tester’s campaign received a grand total of $80,904.94 from lobbyists, PACs and executives who would be directly affected if the Durbin rule went into effect. In total, Tester’s campaign received over $102,904 in total contributions from banks, bank executives and employees and lobbyists who would benefit from Sen. Tester’s legislation (See List of Donors Attached).

    This is pretty self-destructive behavior for a politician who accused his predecessor of taking $150k in pay-to-play schemes from Jack Abramoff and Co. as the mantle of his campaign against Burns.

    • petetalbot

      Interesting block quotes, as always, JC. However, I hope the irony of the Montana GOP pointing out special interest donations to a candidate isn’t lost on folks. I mean, take a look at Rehberg’s last quarter FEC filing. Amidst the individual donors are your oil, gas, coal, nuclear and mining industry PACs … banks, insurance, health care, transportation, communications … and that’s just last quarter!

      • It’s unfortunate that this is where it goes – that the GOP is pointing out special interest donations to Tester. I know I would rather them not even having that ammo to go there.

        That – really – is the where I thought we’d be at…at least that’s definitely what I was thinking when I was making phone calls back in April of 2006.

  5. Turner

    This is very disappointing. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Tester needs to explain what he’s doing here.

    If there’s any other explanation than simple corruption, I’d like to hear it.

    I’ve written an open letter to Tester on the “Tester vs. Rehberg” page of our county Democratic website ( In the letter I talk about a number of his actions that bring his commitments to principles into question.

    It ends with a luke-warm endorsement.

  6. Ingemar Johansson

    ….and the bill rings.

    Denny wins another round.

    • Ingemar Johansson


      damn fingers.

      • drunken denny’s bit off more than he can chew this time swede.

        I can smell your fear.

        • Keep whistling through the graveyard problembear –

          Wasn’t it just last November that Denny won overwhelmingly against the best that the Dems had to offer ?

          I suppose you’re pinning your hopes that all those Dems who voted for Rehberg last November will switch their votes ?

          • mcdonald was no tester eric. in fact, i would say that denny has had a pass opponent-wise his entire career.

            drunken denny has no right cross or left jab and this chinless born on third base pretender is ll-prepared to go up against the crew cut juggernaut.

            i say jon wins by 30,000 votes in 18 months. care to make it interesting sir?

            • Montana GO

              Actually PBear, Denny beat Nancy Keenan, and she was a fierce campaigner, a long-time legislator, and had already won a statewide race for Superintendent of Public Instruction. So, whatever you may or may not think of Dennis Rehberg, it would be a serious mistake to underestimate him…and he just announced that Eric Iverson would be his campaign director and, like Denny, it would also be a mistake to underestimate Eric’s considerable skills and connections.

              Ironically, Keenan’s loss may have had something to do with her rolling to the right on some issues, such as snowmobiles in Yellowstone Park, that simply de-energized some of her base. Does that sound familiar as a topic on this blog these days?

              • petetalbot

                Denny ran a smear campaign against Keenan that basically called her a bull dyke. That might have had something to do with Keenan’s loss. I don’t think Iverson was around then but I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded this tactic.

                Denny, being the class act that he is, will launch some sort of skanky campaign against Tester, with Iverson’s help. It’s going to get nasty.

                One thing you can be sure of is there won’t be any real discussion of the important issues facing our state and country. Denny’s record says it all. (What record, you ask? Exactly.).

                If I were an anarchist, I’d vote for Rehberg knowing that it would hasten the collapse of this great country of ours. But I’m not, so I won’t.

              • Ingemar Johansson

                Dem would stoop as low as throwing a perception of gayness in campaign ads, right Pete?

                I seem to remember a certain hairdresser spot in a closely contested statewide race.

              • petetalbot

                A close race? Not hardly. Baucus was leading Taylor by at least 10 points throughout the campaign — even more after Taylor withdrew and then re-upped. Which is why I was surprised that Baucus ran that tacky hair dresser commercial. It was certainly the final nail in the coffin, and I guess that’s what it’s all about.

            • Where will you get 30,000 votes ?

              Do you think that 15,000 Dems crossed party lines to vote against Dennis McDonald ?

              • I do not know of nor have I heard of even one Democrat getting out there and voting for Rehberg.

                Overall, Republican’s just pulled out more voters. That’s what won it for Denny – not pulling Democrat votes.

                Seriously-that theory is just bat crap crazy.

            • Make it interesting ?

              For that to happen you’d have to be in the real world, not the blogosphere.

              Usually I don’t give valuable insight to libs, but it really doesn’t matter in this case –

              The upcoming election will be a referendum on Obama.

              Tester has been the perfect puppet for Reid/Pelosi/Obama, voting however he has been instructed to, and even casting the deciding vote on Obamacare – twice.

              If the Rehberg campaign brings out these votes, and then starts playing the soundclips of Tester from 2006, when he was busy lying about Sen. Burns, and making promises he didn’t keep, such as “Quite frankly I don’t support earmarks period” their task of unseating him becomes much easier because they can appeal to the undecideds, telling them what he’s done, and why he needs to go.

              Dennis McDonald was a slick California lawyer, posing as a Montanan, and that persona would be preferable to Jon Testers right now.

              Add to that the outstanding job Denny has done and it equals a blowout.

              • Imaginative and delusional……..

                Well. I did say make it interesting.

              • Steve W

                outstanding drunk.

                A better boozer

              • “Outstanding job”??? Really?

                I can’t name even one thing he’s done.

                Unless you count voting on legislation. Proposing something worthwhile and actually getting it to a hearing? yet along the floor?

                Jon’s work with Veteran’s has undoubtedly saved lives.

                Veterans barely give Rehberg a passing grade.

    • JC

      I didn’t realize this was a boxing match yet. And Denny definitely wasn’t in the ring. His take from special interests for legislation he’s voting on isn’t stellar either.

      Denny’s going to be having a lot of fun explaining his ties to BP and oil & gas and energy industry execs and lobbyists

      • Ingemar Johansson

        So being in bed with Banks is not as bad as sleeping with oil?

        • Steve W

          I’d rather sleep in a bank than is a pool of oil.

          How about you?

        • JC

          You can figure that out on your own. And with a gazillion hours of bad TV advertisements trying to sway you one way or the other.

          Glad I don’t watch commercials anymore. It’s going to be an ugly campaign.

  7. Question is, do you have what it takes not to vote for Tester? He knows you don’t. That’s why he abuses you so – he knows you can’t make it on your own.

    • Turner

      What does “make it on your own” mean?

      Are you saying that if Rehberg wins, we’re all on our own (meaning, I guess, we can forget about things like Children’s Health Care, Medicare, public schools?)

      Tester has slipped up badly here, apparently. But Rehberg would be a disaster.

  8. “Make it on your own” merely means walking through this life without allowing other people to manipulate you by use of fear tactics. The ‘Mean Old Republican’ scam works so well that every Democrat uses it. While he’s busy sticking it to you, he’s waving a MOR picture in front of you to scare you. That way he never gets disciplined for bad behavior because you’re too afraid to do so.

    You don’t have the guts not to vote for him. He knows this, and so owns you.

    • This election will more hinge on turnout – not Dems that “don’t have the guts not to vote for him” or Dems that cross the aisle.

      Tester’s election in 2006 hinged on exactly that too. Dems turned ’em out and turned ’em out hard. Since that election, state GOP electeds have done their darndest to make it more and more difficult to vote.

      I still remember – and still have certified proof – of Jack Eaton’s fraud in the 2008 election. I’d really like to have a county attorney step up to the plate and do the job that is necessary to ensure that Eaton’s fraud is never perpetuated again….but I digress.

      What Dems like Baucus and Tester and Schweitzer need to be doing is to be creating a political environment where Democrats are happy to be Democrats – where Democrats want to hire more Democrats.

      Tester controls his destiny – it is he who is the incumbent – it is he who sits on the powerful Appropriations. He’s also on Banking. And Homeland Security. Those should play well with the conservative side of the state.

      If the Dems turn ’em out, it’ll be just as much of a cat race as it was in ’06. I know I’ll be voting – the state races are what’s really important, if you ask me.

      • The dynamic is more manipulative than that – lower offices aside, the same money is buying these small-state senate seats. They are cheap to be had – it takes tens of millions to buy a CA seat, but Montana is a $3 million buy. So we end up with Baucus and Tester and the ‘lesser evil’ gambit. Works every time. The important thing to known is that there is little difference between Tester and Rehberg except how they are perceived. When the pressure was on Tester, he buckled, and so has a massive war chest. He’s not worth the time.

        Let’s not forget too that we fought Conrad Burns for 18 years to preserve the remaining wild lands, and Tester has undone all of that, accomplished the Burns agenda, and only succeeded because he is a Democrat, and you guys don’t discipline him.

        • petetalbot

          This race is much more than the “‘lesser evil’ gambit” you refer to, Jesse. To me, it’s a race between someone I occasionally disagree with and someone I never agree with. Rehberg stands against everything progressives work for: the disadvantaged, the middle class, health care reform, peace, the environment, women and kids …

          Not a big fan of Tester’s wolf rider? (I’m not.) But Rehberg’s plan: shoot ’em all on sight. Not thrilled with Tester’s wilderness bill? (Nor I.) Rehberg’s solution: log it, drill it, strip mine it.

          Their aren’t many grey areas here — it’s pretty black-and-white. Tester ain’t perfect but Rehberg is pure evil.

          • at least jon isn’t suing his home town firefighters for saving his ass.

            drunken denny’s going down hard in 2012….

            why? because rehberg…..

            votes against supporting our veterans
            wants to privatize medicare
            wants to privatize social security
            votes against childrens health care
            votes against women’s choice
            and the worse trait of all for a montanan- he can’t hold his liquor.

            and to top it all off- instead of representing people in montana it looks like denny is doing a little moonlighting for big tobacco

          • Did each of you just say that Tester is the lesser evil? Did I say that he and Rehberg were merely perceived differently? Since we’re all saying the same thing, let’s quit.

            • petetalbot

              Not quite ready to quit, Jesse because we’re not saying the same thing at all. You say, “The important thing to known (sic) is that there is little difference between Tester and Rehberg except how they are perceived.”

              What I, and I believe p-bear, are saying is that there’s a world of difference between the two and this is way more than an election between “lesser evil(s).”

            • So you perceive large differences. I don’t. Holding the base in line means managing your perceptions. Voting records are contrived, “score cards” are kept by various groups, speeches are given and stances taken. But the real work goes on out of sight. Money changes hands, phone calls are made, and staff decides how to approach issues in such a way that it appears to the base that he is acting as you like. But he isndoing the same thing as his opponent would do.

              Example: Tester is advancing then forest/wilderness agenda advanced by Montana Wood Products/ranchers/motorized recreation, just as Burns did. Why do you perceive that handling of the issue changed when he took office? It didn’t.

  9. ladybug

    The authoritarian right-center duking it out with the right-right. Yawn! What’s most interesting to me is that authoritarianism is the clear winner this time, every time in Montana. The “free-thinking” individualists that elected Rankin and Metcalf are long gone in numbers that can influence elections. This state is flying on auto-pilot. Don’t wake the pilot or the tower.

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