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Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009

Free Mojito With Checking Account!

Associated Bank Plays it Wrong

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Last week, Daniel Bice, writing in his "No Quarter" column for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, reported that Associated Bank took a $525 million handout from the federal government. No great shakes - I applied for some myself (denied, btw). However, Bice, in the same column, "Associated Bank plans its own fiesta after bailout party," also reported that Associated CEO Paul Beideman was planning on taking nearly a hundred Ass.Bankers with him to a Caribbean resort to celebrate a job well done.

Bad timing, that.

Really bad timing, if you happen to be one of the schleps who busted your ass all year, kissing the ass of every Eddie LunchBucket who walked in the door, begging them to sign up for the free Packer Checking and a chance to win an autographed mystery hair from Al Harris, all in the hopes of spending a few pleasant days on the beach, not really being able to enjoy it because, after all, CEO Beideman is under the next palapa, giving you the stink-eye as you dare to order a third rum-runner.

Yes, banking must suck. I work at a cheese and sausage retail location, which I think is superior, but more about that later.

Trips like these do happen all the time in Corporate America. Again, I work at the cheese shop, so our holiday bonus is a beef log and discounted lanes at Bay View Bowl, and I'm not complaining. This is the business I have chosen. But I do feel genuinely sorry for those Associated employees, since such a hue and cry was raised over the revelations, that the entire vacation was scrapped, much to the dismay of people like my friend Mahtzo, who was looking forward to some uninterrupted Guitar Hero time while his girlfriend (who works at a downtown branch) was trying in vain to "rent-a-Rasta" on the beaches of San Juan. Now she's not going anywhere, and Mahtzo won't be able to beat the Dead Kennedy's "Holiday in Cambodia" until she takes her pilgrimage to Dollywood.

Daniel Bice screws things up for a lot of people.

Here though, Bice's hands are clean, and were I to be offered one, I would shake it heartily. Reserve your invective here for the sagacious CEO Beideman, whose insulting and patronizing response to the story probably had more to do with the public's outrage than anything else. In his statement, Beidemann claims that none of the money taken in corporate welfare would go toward his mojitos or massages, but would be used only for "lending initiatives," I assure you. I wanted to write an analogy here about a farmer assuring us that "no milk from that there cow will be used in this wheel of pepperjack," but after several drafts it just never seemed literary enough. This is why I just slice and arrange sausage for a living.

But back to Beidemann, who, fully aware of the recent scandals involving CEOs taking corporate jets to Washington to walk away with our tax dollars, had this to say about Associated Bank, and why their shit doesn't stink. "We took the capital, and let me say this very clearly, we didn't have to…There's a big difference."

Actually, there's not. If anything, this makes the whole thing more distasteful. You can do whatever the hell you want with your money and treat your employees as well as you like, but not when you just got back from begging the taxpayers for money. You just can't do it and hope to escape the court of public opinion. Doubtless Beideman and his ilk would love more blank checks from the government with no oversight, but those days are over, and with good reason. As another superb Journal Sentinel writer, Eugene Kane recently wrote about an unrelated topic, "if it doesn't pass the smell test, then don't do it."