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New Bottom Line Announces National Divestment Campaign

Bank of America’s $5 monthly debit card fee, a move they are now trying to walk back, has revitalized a citizen’s movement to take money out of the large Wall Street banks and to put it into community banks or credit unions. This has gone forward with minimal success since the financial meltdown, but now has roared back to life. There’s a National Bank Transfer Day called for November 5. Groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee are putting together “Move Your Money” events, and forwarding supporters details on how they can do the same. There’s anecdotal evidence that the big banks have taken notice and are nervous about the increasing loss of depositors.

Now the leading bank accountability group has joined in. The New Bottom Line, which has been focused on anti-bank actions around foreclosures and Wall Street greed, has launched a “Move Our Money” campaign, which sets its aim at a higher level: getting local governments to divest their funds from big banks. In over 50 cities across the country, coalition members will press for legislation to move local government funds.

There’s a second component to the campaign, a tool to allow individuals and community groups to self-organize campaigns to move their own money. An early test of this led to 300 homeowners moving their money out of Wells Fargo. They have set a goal of moving $1 billion out of Bank of America and its financial giant colleagues and into community banks and credit unions.

But the divestment campaign takes this to a higher level. The coalition has already had success on that front, too: they successfully lobbied for the city of San Jose to move their money away from Bank of America. And that was before the Occupy Wall Street protests refocused energy on this tactic.

The opening salvo in this campaign will happen tomorrow in Los Angeles, when clergy with the faith group LA Voice PICO will divest the funds of their congregation from Bank of America, and demand that the Los Angeles City Council do the same. Specifically, they want a vote on legislation that forces the city to divest from any bank that has failed to follow city ordinances on foreclosure prevention.

Gordon Whitman, Policy Director for the faith coalition PICO, said in a statement, “Taxpayer dollars should be used to support taxpayer’s values. Every dollar a city or town moves from a Wall Street bank to a local bank or credit union will help create a new bottom line that means good jobs, healthy communities, and a government that fights for everyday people.”

At Move Our Money USA, individuals and community groups can organize public Move Your Money events, with tips for promotion and organization, as well as a feedback form so The New Bottom Line can track their $1 billion goal.

After lingering for years, Move Your Money is starting to become a reality. For that, we can thank Occupy Wall Street and Bank of America’s horrible timing. This New Bottom Line action can catalyze the anger and frustration around the financial giants and channel it into productive activity.

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David Dayen

David Dayen