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What’s in your wallet? We’ll know if it’s a gun.- POLITICO | #socialmedia | #hacking | #aihp


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If you buy a gun with plastic, your credit card company is going to know about it.

As obvious as that sounds, it wasn’t until this weekend that the big three credit card companies — Visa, Mastercard and American Express — agreed to adopt a new merchant code that specifically carves out gun sales from the “general merchandise” category.

Other types of purchases, everything from plumbing equipment to florist supplies, already have their own codes. But this one’s been years in the making.

Gun control advocates, blue state public pension fund leaders and Democratic policymakers say the subtle, arcane adjustment in how transactions are coded could stop illegal gun trafficking and help law enforcement identify dangerous purchases by would-be mass shooters before they ever pull the trigger.

“The creation of [a] new merchant category code for firearms is a major step forward that will help give law enforcement the tools they need to stop a tragedy before it happens,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement released by Amalgamated Bank on Friday. “I’m grateful to the business leaders who stepped up and joined the fight to protect public safety — here in New York and across the nation.”

As pro-gun control Democrats herald the new merchant code as a key tool for curtailing gun violence, its arrival has inflamed pro-gun groups and privacy advocates who say consumers are already subject to excessive commercial surveillance. With Republican-led state agencies now flexing their muscles to oppose corporate ESG programs and clean energy initiatives, banks and other payments businesses could be caught in the middle.

“Categorizing firearm retailers under a separate merchant code is a dangerous step toward using the payment system to monitor and track politically disfavored industries,” Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said in a statement to POLITICO on Sunday. “This raises serious privacy concerns and payment processing networks should not play an end-run game around Congress to police and target lawful businesses.”

He’s not the only Republican lawmaker fuming over the new merchant codes.

“To maybe catch someone, they want to track everyone everywhere,” Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) tweeted on Saturday, later confirming to POLITICO that he was concerned with how the new code could further enable what his tweets dubbed “surveillance capitalism.”

Banks and payments businesses have faced growing pressure to combat gun violence after it became clear that the assailants behind certain mass shootings, including the Virginia Tech and Pulse Nightclub attacks, had used credit cards to amass their arsenals.

The latest push behind a new code picked up steam over the summer after it emerged that Amalgamated Bank — which markets itself as a “socially responsible” enterprise — was petitioning an international payments standards-setting body on the matter.

Meanwhile, pension leaders in New York and California unveiled an effort to leverage their stock holdings in the three credit card companies to prod them to action. Days later, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) sent letters to the CEOs of MasterCard, American Express and Visa demanding answers on why they were resistant to collecting more data on guns and ammo purchases.

Once the Geneva, Switzerland-based International Organization for Standardization handed down its decision on Friday, all three credit card companies capitulated, per the Associated Press’s Ken Sweet.

In a statement, American Express said that it was working with its partners on implementing the new codes, which are “one of many data points that help us understand the industries in which our merchants operate.”

Separately, Mastercard said that it would now focus on how the new codes “will be implemented by merchants and their banks as we continue to support lawful purchases on our network while protecting the privacy and decisions of individual cardholders.”

Visa also confirmed it was proceeding with “next steps” while “ensuring we protect all legal commerce on the Visa network in accordance with our long-standing rules.”

IT’S MONDAY — Buckle up, it’s going to be a long week. Please send tips, story ideas and feedback to [email protected].

The New York Fed releases three year inflation expectation data at 11 a.m. … Consumer Price Index and Core CPI is out on Tuesday … The Senate Banking Committee holds a hearing on new financial products on Tuesday … The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on the future of trade between the U.S. and Taiwan on Wednesday … The SEC has an open meeting on Treasury clearing standards on Wednesday … SEC Chair Gary Gensler testifies in front of the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday … The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on its crypto bill on Thursday … The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the farm bill on Thursday … Philadelphia Fed and Empire State manufacturing data out Thursday … University of Michigan consumer sentiment and inflation expectations data out Friday

BIDEN ECONOMIC PLAN — This week’s flurry of economic data will arrive as President Joe Biden seeks to position his party as the primary driver of a post-pandemic recovery that’s teetered between inflationary and recessionary pressures. The White House on Friday released a 58-page “economic blueprint” that — though containing little new policy — lays out how its action on everything from SNAP benefits to heavy infrastructure “reverses decades of disinvestment in public goods, and will reach communities that have too often been left behind.” The release dovetailed with Biden’s visit to Licking County, Ohio, to celebrate the groundbreaking of a semiconductor plant.

GO HARD OR GO HOME — Bloomberg’s Craig Torres and Matthew Boesler: “Fed Governor Chris Waller signaled his backing Friday for a 75 basis point hike by saying he supported ‘another significant increase.’ Earlier, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said that he is leaning ‘more strongly toward’ a jumbo move when officials gather Sept. 20-21. Both have been good bellwethers so far this year on where Fed policy is headed.”

FIRST IN MM — In a sign of what’s to come if Republicans retake the Senate next year, GOP members of the Senate Banking Committee fired off a letter to Director Rohit Chopra on Monday claiming that the CFPB “has returned to its Obama-era roots as a lawless and unaccountable agency.” The lawmakers, led by outgoing ranking Republican Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), claim that the agency has sought to intimidate banks by publicizing data about revenue generated through overdraft fees. They also criticized a recent rule change that affects how confidential information obtained through agency investigations is released and allege that the regulator improperly contacted customers of Fifth Third Bank for an investigation into potentially fraudulent accounts.

“We urge you to reverse course and stop using inappropriate tactics to harm financial institutions’ reputations and customer relationships in order to advance your liberal policy preferences,” the senators wrote.

TRUTH SOCIAL — POLITICO’s Declan Harty: “A group of financiers has stepped in to provide the company seeking to combine with former President Donald Trump’s new social media venture another three months to seal the merger agreement. The creators of Digital World Acquisition Corp., which is looking to join with Trump Media & Technology Group, provided a $2.9 million non-interest-bearing loan on Thursday to the company that gives it until Dec. 8 to either complete the merger or extend the deadline to do so.”


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