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"Cities and counties have billions in banked assets. We have the power to hold corporations accountable. We can hit them on their balance sheets," said Controller Pinsley.
ALLENTOWN, PA, July 21, 2022 /24-7PressRelease/ -- On Wednesday, July 13th at the urging of Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley, the Board of Commissioners voted 6-3 to begin the process of divesting from Wells Fargo Banking Corporation. Controller Pinsley brought this proposal over their continued financial support of candidates who oppose abortion rights, common-sense gun reform, and environmental legislation.
The ordinance was sponsored by Commissioner Zach Cole-Borghi and seconded by Commissioner David Harrington.
"Cities and counties have billions in banked assets. We have the power to hold corporations accountable. We can hit them on their balance sheets. A corporation shouldn't have a say as to whether my daughter has rights, whether our schools are safe from mass shooters or whether our planet is sustainable. Companies, in general, have no business dictating our lives. They're not people, despite what the Supreme Court tells us," said Controller Pinsley in his remarks before the board.
The goal of the motion was for Lehigh County to provide to the Board of Commissioners the County's banking policy and procedures, and the Board will prepare a Legal Service Requisition requesting the Department of Law to review the procedures for Lehigh County to change the financial institutions with which it has banking relationships.
Commissioner Zakiya Smalls, supported the proposal: "As the only woman on the board, it's important that in light of Roe being overturned that we begin to look at things in an in-depth way. We have an opportunity to choose whether we want to continue a relationship with a bank that takes partisan stances or a regional bank that is invested in our community."
Wells Fargo earned $77 billion in profits through March 2022. They've used those funds to financially support organizations like the Republican Governor's Association and Republican Senate Campaign Committee who back candidates supportive of stripping away abortion rights or have obstructed commonsense gun reform.
The Pennsylvania chapter of the National Organization of Women released a statement praising Controller Pinsley's leadership:
"The Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Organization for Women applauds the leadership of Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley in calling for the removal of Wells Fargo Bank as a depository for the over $140 million in taxpayer funds. Public dollars should not be invested, or even deposited, in financial institutions that turn around and make campaign contributions to candidates who work against the public interest, particularly the right to choose healthcare and the right to reproductive freedom without governmental interference."
They stated Lehigh County "could be a leader in starting a movement of municipal governments that turns the tide to restore abortion rights, pass common-sense gun reform and protect our planet."
Pennsylvania NOW is not alone in identifying the power and potential of shifting municipal deposits.
Former Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale added his support, stating "Lehigh County has taken a bold step in holding corporate power accountable. It's not just about how we spend our tax dollars, but where we spend them. Taxpayer money shouldn't help finance the undermining of their basic constitutional rights."
The Pennsylvania Working Families Party, VoteProchoice, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, Alliance for Sustainable Communities Lehigh Valley and Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley have joined in support of the proposal.
The current president of the Parkland March For Our Lives chapter and Parkland High School student expressed support: "March for Our Lives will hold the Commissioners accountable. We will make sure they follow through with moving taxpayer money away from the banks that have chosen to turn a blind eye to the countless mass shootings this country has faced. From Newtown to Uvalde, we have suffered enough and will no longer let the murders of our generation go unanswered. This is an important first step. We must break these banks!"
Controller Pinsley believes that democracy and the future of the nation are at stake, and this moment calls for an all-hands-on-deck approach that yields nothing in the fight for our values.
"Momentum is building. We can no longer engage in a lopsided battle for our rights. The Supreme Court has been weaponized against democracy. Activism must lead to action. This is a chance for Lehigh County to put its money where its values are," said Controller Pinsley.
Lehigh County currently has over $140 million in total banked assets with Wells Fargo.
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