Friday, May 23, 2008

A Cell Phone Company for Progressive People

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Has anyone heard of this? A progressive cell phone company called "CREDO Mobile."  Originally and maybe still called "Working Assets," CREDO mobile offers mobile and long distance phone service and a credit card that all have the stated goal of being "socially responsible." This is interesting and almost comical for me. At the same time it is smart idea.

It was founded in 1985 and the company is based in San Francisco, California (Go Figure). San Francisco is in the congressional district that Nancy Pelosi represents (Remember that Political Ad about West Coat Liberals) and where Dianne Feinstein was formerly mayor.

A quick look at their phone plans reveals prices that are no different than that of AT&T or Verizon or Sprint.image They have a small selection of phones as well and not a single Blackberry and iPhone. One should also note that they completely run on the Sprint network.

Despite these things (which made be good things for some people) they use 100% post-consumer recycled paper and soy-based ink for all its paper bills and internal communications and they purchase carbon offsets through Carbonfund.org. I like when science and political activism come together.

I wanted to find out about some of the criticisms of this company "Working Assets/CREDO Mobile," and of course Wikipedia gave us some great things.

1st Criticism from Wikipedia:

1. Although the Working Assets credit card is now offered through Bank of America, the product came under criticism when it was issued through the bank MBNA, the top contributor to George W. Bush's 2000 Presidential Campaign. When asked about this, Working Assets' employees have made differing claims. In one letter, it was stated that Working Assets chose MBNA regardless of its political views and entirely for its experience and quality customer service. In another letter, president Michael Kieschnick stated that Working Assets ended up under MBNA when the company purchased the credit card business of Fleet Bank, which had previously issued the card. Kieschnick said it was not Working Assets' choice to select MBNA and cannot change banks without violating its current contract. MBNA was subsequently purchased by Bank of America. Many environmental groups, including ones who benefit from Working Assets, have active campaigns against Bank of America, citing its funding of more projects that contribute to global warming than any other bank. This may cause a conflict of interest for these charities.

2nd Criticism from Wikipedia:

2. Working Assets has been an active opponent against Warrantless wiretapping by the NSA and has been active in criticizing Verizon and AT&T for collaborating with the NSA to permit these activities. Sprint, the network carrier which CREDO resells service on, is also named as a company which participated in this activity. While CREDO has voiced opposition against FISA and providing immunity to AT&T and Verizon against lawsuits stemming from the wiretapping controversy, criticism or mention of Sprint is notably absent in its press releases.

Its definitely hard to be a purist. Its understandable that everything is connected. Check out They Rule. Its an interesting site that allows you to create maps of the interlocking directories of the top companies in the US in 2004. It also includes people from Clinton and Bush's administrations who a good a number of which, were and are directors on the boards of major companies.

But back to CREDO. Its is a honorable mission and socially responsible investing is promising area of business world especially in the last few years. I don't think I'd ever sign up to get their plans but I applaud people who do. It seems that everyone has an agenda anyway...Credo considering its origins and mission is just open about it...and 1% of your charges to progressive nonprofit groups.

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I hope to god that their is an independent motivated version of this company and conservative counterpart and a libertarian counterpart just to see how they fare against each other.

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