10:56 AM Eastern - Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nina Easton & the Bank Lobbyists: Too Close for Comfort

Al Marshall, an SEIU member from Oakland, CA, was present at the gathering on Sunday. You can read his personal response to Nina Easton here.

UPDATE: Dan Roth, the Managing Editor of Fortune.com, responded to our request by defending Easton as a columnist. He confessed he knew nothing about her husband's connection to Bank of America.

4613550730_14fd9582ab.jpgOn Sunday, when hundreds of taxpayers went to Bank of America lobbyist Greg Baer's home to ask him to stop foreclosing on their neighborhoods, we received a mixed welcome. Some folks actually came out and applauded us, giving us thumbs up as we went past. Most people just stood and watched. Baer himself tried to blend in with the crowd until a neighbor pointed him out and he stormed away.

But there was one woman that everyone remembers. She came running outside while Mark Freeman was preparing to tell how Bank of America is trying to kick him and his family out of their home. The bank jacked his payments up until he could no longer afford them - then foreclosed on him. As he was getting ready to talk, a woman came storming across her lawn, screaming at us to shut up and go away - telling us we had no business being there.

That woman was Nina Easton, Washington editor of Fortune magazine. The next day, she got on the phone with Stephen Lerner, head of SEIU's banking reform project, and ranted some more. And, today, she's continuing her rant in an article for Fortune magazine and CNN Money.

Ms. Easton paints a terrifying picture of a "mob" with pitchforks and torches outside her window. The problem is, her story doesn't quite mesh with the facts. More on that in a minute.

The really interesting question here is: why is Ms. Easton so angry? And why has she decided to use her position as a member of the media to air her own personal rant at the people who showed up to share their foreclosure stories?


Nina Easton's husband's firm has Business Roundtable as a client, a special interest group that counts giant banks like Bank of America as members.

One Google search clears it up pretty quickly. Her husband is Russell Schriefer, Republican strategist and consultant to several big corporate interest groups. In fact, her husband's client list includes the Business Roundtable, a special interest group that counts Bank of America and other Wall Street banks among its members.

Ms. Easton's husband used to be a corporate lobbyist himself, before he started his own consulting firm for Republican politicians and corporate interest groups like the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce. Now, according to his website, he helps garner positive media for "a wide range of corporate clients including Fortune 500 companies and national associations."

And with his wife's Bank of America apologist piece today, he can chalk up another victory for his clients.

So, it's becoming clearer why Nina Easton decided to use her position as editor to write a personal rant. Her family profits off Bank of America's success. The next question is, why would any self-respecting news outlet choose to run it?

That's what we're trying to figure out now. We have a call in with her managing editor but, so far, have gotten no response. See update above.

Even if you ignore the obvious personal bias, the article is rife with hyperbole and distortion.

Ms. Easton uses her article to criticize the police for their "belated" response time and says they were too scared to arrest us. The truth is, the police actually followed us to the event to help keep the peace. They were on the scene when we were. The reason they didn't make any arrests is because nobody did anything illegal. In fact, the police went on record as saying it was a "very peaceful" event.

She also seems to suggest that we shouldn't have tried to talk to Baer because he is a "lifelong Democrat." This is ridiculous. The foreclosure crisis has nothing to do with political party and everything to do with banks and their lobbyists using their influence ($$$) with politicians of all stripes to keep things the way they are.

That's why we were there and why people will continue to stand up to the banks and their lobbyists, who continue to do everything they can to keep Wall Street profiting at Main Street's expense.

If Nina Easton really wants to see "personal intimidation," she should head outside her posh neighborhood and follow along next time Bank of America forecloses on a family. Unlike us, they won't be there just to talk to them. They'll be there to take away their home.

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