A progressive non-profit organization slams Florida congresswoman and Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz for supporting predatory payday lenders.
A new $ 100,000 television commercial began airing in the Wasserman Schultz district of South Florida on Tuesday, days before the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced new national rules regulating the payday loan industry. .
Wasserman Schultz, a close ally of Hillary Clinton who served as Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign co-chair, opposed to federal regulation of predatory payday lenders, which disproportionately target poor and uneducated Americans.
She joined mostly Republicans, as well as several other pro-business Democrats, in co-sponsoring RH 4018, a bill that would effectively oust future payday loan regulations from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The new TV commercial, which was paid for by left-wing NGO Allied Progress, features a clip of Wasserman Schultz insisting in an April CBS interview that “payday loans are sadly … necessary.”
CBS host Jim DeFede pushes back, noting that these loans have “high interest rates.[s], up to 300%. “
DeFede adds that the bill backed by Wasserman Schultz faces opposition from various civil society groups, including the NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, Florida Legal Services and more.
Wasserman Schultz refuses to budge, saying the payday loan is “necessary”.
“No, congressman, it’s predatory,” the narrator replies, imploring viewers, “Tell Debbie Wasserman Schultz to stop siding with payday lenders.”
You can watch the ad below:
“What is really ‘unfortunate’ is that Debbie Wasserman Schultz still refuses to put her constituents and millions of vulnerable Americans before an industry that has given her more than $ 68,000 in campaign money,” said Karl Frisch, Executive Director of Allied Progress, the non-profit organization that paid for the ad.
Wasserman Schultz has received tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from payday lenders in election cycles every two years since his election in 2006, according to a study by the monitoring NGO Center for Responsive Politics. In 2010 alone, payday lenders gave him $ 28,000.
The average Florida payday loan borrower pays more than 300% interest and takes out nine loans each year, Frisch explained. “They find themselves trapped in a cycle of debt as payday lenders amass piles of money which they then turn over and give to powerful politicians like Wasserman Schultz.”
In Florida, under the law, Wasserman Schultz called a “model” alternative to pending federal regulations, 85% of payday loans go to people with at least seven loans per year. This drains $ 280 million in fees each year for low-income Floridians (and $ 3.6 billion in fees each year for consumers nationwide).
“How could anyone qualify this racquet as ‘necessary’ – unfortunate or not – is beyond me,” said Frisch.
Wasserman Schultz’s campaign criticized the ad in an email to Salon.
“MP Wasserman Schultz is convinced that the CFPB, whether or not this bill becomes law, will ultimately do what is right,” said spokesman Ryan Banfill, referring to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“The ad, like all the others, intentionally takes it out of context. Here is what MP Wasserman Schultz really said:” Payday loans are unfortunately a necessary part for people to access the capital of the working poor. ” , added Banfill.
The campaign spokesperson said Wasserman Schultz has supported raising the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour so that payday loans are no longer necessary.
Wasserman Schultz’s campaign accused Allied Progress of “distortion and intimidation”. “It’s unfortunate for people who just want to pay their bills responsibly but are running out of money,” Banfill said. “Debbie Wasserman Schultz will continue to fight hard to protect consumers, as her constituents know she always has.”
Law professor Tim Canova, candidate for Wasserman Schultz’s seat in Congress, echoed Allied Progress’s criticisms.
“After taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks, [Wasserman Schultz] voted to prevent the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from regulating payday loans and tackling racial discrimination in auto loans, ”he said stress on his campaign site.
Bernie Sanders endorsed Wasserman Schultz’s opponent, “breathing life” in Canova’s “main long-term challenge,” according to the Washington Post Put the.
“She is emblematic of an establishment that does not serve the base,” Canova told the newspaper. He noted that his Florida district “is such a safe Democratic district that there is” no need to worry about a Republican. “So it really pits a progressive grassroots campaign against a corporate machine. What is it gonna be? “
Allied Progress launched a campaign in March to pressure members of Congress who support HR 4018, the bill that would undermine federal regulation of payday lenders.
He designed the DebtTrapDebbie.com website, with an online petition calling on Wasserman Schultz to stop “sabotaging” the “federal government’s hard work to hold payday lenders accountable.”
In April, the organization sponsored two billboards in the Wasserman Schultz district, as well as a mobile billboard in Washington, DC.
In March, Allied Progress created another television commercial that denounces “Debt Trap Debbie” for its support of payday lenders. He quotes a 2015 speech in which the president Obama condemned payday lenders for making a profit by “trapping hard-working Americans in a vicious cycle of debt.”
The March announcement can be viewed below:
The announcement will air on network and cable TV for at least a week and was scheduled on the eve of the expected announcement from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on June 2.
Senator Elizabeth Warren and others created the office in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to protect Americans from malicious practices in the financial industry, including payday loan companies, as well as banks, mortgage lenders. toxic and collectors.
The office is expected to announce new state regulations at a field hearing in Kansas City on Thursday, June 2.
Allied Progress says he “will follow to see how Rep. Wasserman Schultz and other members of the Florida delegation react to the announcement – whether they endorse the tough new rules or continue to stand by the predatory payday lenders “.
“It is time for the MP to abandon her support for this unsavory industry and instead devote her considerable political capital to the CFPB’s efforts to end the debt trap once and for all,” Frisch said.
Frisch is a longtime Democratic Party strategist and former director of communications for liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America. He has worked on a variety of Democratic campaigns and previously served as the National Press Secretary of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.
Allied Progress appears to have only been launched in 2015, and therefore does not yet have publicly available tax information. His address is on file in a UPS Store mailbox in Washington, DC
(This article has been updated after publication with statements from the Wasserman Schultz campaign.)