The Root Interview: Russell Simmons on His RushCard
A recent trip he made to Capitol Hill to lobby against bank-to-bank fee caps for prepaid debit cards bore fruit. That set media tongues to wagging, and now Simmons is fighting back.
TR: Who did you meet with in the Congressional Black Caucus?
Simmons: I met with the people on the finance committee. It was not about the Black Caucus. I met with Sen. Durbin.
I don't know why [Bloomberg Businessweek and The Washington Post] would say [I just met with] Congressional Black Caucus. I went to everyone's office who was involved with the finance committee. It happened that some of those people were black. It happened that Maxine Waters or Congressman Meeks and others were black, but it wasn't because they were black [that I went]. But they did realize that they weren't going to let business -- and I guess that's probably a focus that the Black Caucus takes more than other groups -- that this was not [just] a business-to-business issue, that they had to be concerned for protecting the consumer.... and the Black Caucus is very famous for [championing] that. So it's good that they happen to be very heavily populated on the finance committee.
[Rep.] Barney Franks, [D-MA] was a big supporter of this shift [too]. He was in charge of it, in fact. He's not a member of the Black Caucus, but I guess he asked Congressman Meeks to write the legislation, write the shift in the amendment, because he understood where the struggle was.
What more needs to be done within the public and private sector to help the underserved to get better access to basics like a checking and savings account?
Simmons: Education and opportunities. People are locked out. People are slipping deeper and deeper into poverty. There's not a really good effort being made to lift people out of poverty. The middle class is shrinking. We should give them hope and opportunity.
Monee Fields-White is a Chicago-based writer who covers a wide array of topics, including business and economic news.