State Tax Fights Intro'd A Big New Foe: Wells Fargo

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The recently concluded legislative contests over credit union taxes here and in Utah marked the debut of a new ally on the side of the banking lobby, financial services giant Wells Fargo. The nation's fourth-largest bank, which has sat in the background in past credit union fights, played a prominent role in lobbying for the unsuccessful tax bills in Utah, where it now owns the state's second largest bank, First Security, and in Iowa, where it operates the nation's largest mortgage lender.

The entry of Wells Fargo into the credit union battles creates a new dimension as until now the credit union opposition has been comprised mostly of community banks. Officials at the San Francisco banking giant would not discuss their lobbying for credit union taxation other than to acknowledge their involvement in both states. But the introduction of Wells to the Iowa struggle added muscle to the bankers' lobby, which was already bolstered by lobbyists from the Iowa Bankers Association and the Independent Bankers Association of Iowa, according to Pat Jury, chief lobbyist for the Iowa CU League. Both tax bills were defeated this year, with the Utah legislature appointing a task force to study the issue further.

If credit unions were worried about the banking lobby and its efforts to fight the credit unions, imagine what it will be like if the J.P. Morgan Chases, Bank of Americas and Citicorps get involved.

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