MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — A new ad slams Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz for not doing more to crack down on the predatory practices of the payday lending industry.READ MORE: 3 Children Injured In NW Miami-Dade Crash
The liberal group Allied Progress is spending $100,000 for television ads which will begin airing in the Miami market on Tuesday. The 30-second commercial criticizes her for co-sponsoring a bill that would delay the federal Consumer Financial Protection Board from regulating the business.
Payday lenders have long been a target of criticism by politicians and consumer advocates, who argue the industry charges extremely high interest rates to customers, who are often the poor. The industry has argued it provides a necessary financial service to people in need of emergency funds.
The ad features Wasserman Schultz saying “payday lending is unfortunately… necessary” during an April 10 interview on CBS4’s “Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede.”
“No, Congresswoman, it’s predatory,” says a voiceover. “Tell Debbie Wasserman Schultz to stop siding with payday lenders.”
“How anyone could describe this racket as ‘necessary’ — unfortunate or not — is beyond me,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress.
He also bashes the congresswoman for collecting more than $68,000 in campaign contributions from the payday lending industry, citing figures from the Center for Responsible Politics.
“(Borrowers) find themselves trapped in a cycle of debt while payday lenders rake in piles of cash and then turn around and donate to powerful politicians like Wasserman Schultz,” said Frisch.
Wasserman Schultz opened her campaign headquarters in Davie Tuesday and picked up an in-person endorsement from former progressive Congressman Barney Frank who spoke of her “courage.”
She did not back away from her support of payday loan operations.
“The working poor have only payday loans to turn to. So they are necessary to ensure that people have short term access to capital,” Wasserman Schultz said.
She said the way to eliminate the stores – that some have called legalized loan sharking – is to raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The attack ad buy comes at a time when Wasserman Schultz is facing her first-ever challenger in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 23rd congressional district seat and has come under fire from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Tim Canova, a university law professor, has raised more than $1.5 million and gotten the endorsement of Sanders in his quest to defeat her. She’s held the seat since 2005. The district is heavily Democratic, so the winner of the Aug. 30 primary is all but assured of winning the general election in November.
Canova, a newcomer to politics, says Wasserman Schultz is a Hillary Clinton establishment clone.
“She’s been taking millions of dollars from the biggest corporations and Wall Street banks, and that’s not just my opinion. The Miami Herald PolitiFact did a check and they confirmed all that,” Canova said on Monday.READ MORE: Miami-Dade Residents Gather To Protest Closure Of Matheson Hammock Park's West Entrance
PolitiFact Florida is a fact-checking program run in partnership with the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. PolitiFact did find that Canova’s claims of getting big bucks from big banks and Wall Street, and efforts to delay federal oversight of payday loan operations, were “mostly true.”
Canova says Wasserman Schultz’ loyalty lies with the so-called one percent.
“Protecting predatory finance, bad trade agreements, that’s all been Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s agenda unfortunately and that’s what I want to change,” Canova said. The “bad trade agreements” refers to the Pacific Trade Pact being advanced by the Obama administration that Canova says will see more jobs go to other nations.
Casanova said in his position as a college professor, he sees that the economy is not healthy and the gap between the haves and haves nots is growing.
“I see folks (graduates) well into their 20’s and even 30’s still living at home with their parents, struggling to make ends meet, having trouble finding full-time jobs with benefits,” he said.
The Sanders campaign has accused Wasserman Schultz of providing more favorable conditions to front-runner Hillary Clinton during the primaries, pointing to the quantity and timing of debates and a dispute over access to party data.
Wasserman Schultz called the accusations “extraneous baloney.”
As for Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of her opponent, Wasserman Schultz said her record of accomplishment will get her re-elected.
“My opponent has done nothing,” she said.
“The people who are going to decide who represents Florida’s 23rd congressional district are the people who live here, the people who know my record and who I have represented for 24 years,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Washington-based Allied Progress has been a vocal critic of her. It previously produced a TV ad and paid for a pair of billboards in the congresswoman’s South Florida district, attacking her position on payday loans. It has also launched an online petition, DebtTrapDebbie.com, calling on her to “stop sabotaging President Obama’s hard work to hold payday lenders accountable.”
Wasserman Schultz is one of 24 co-sponsors of H.R. 4018, a bipartisan bill that would allow states, including Florida, to continue to regulate payday lenders instead of the federal government and delay federal rules for two years. Half the bill’s co-sponsors are from Florida.
In the CBS-4 interview, Wasserman Schultz said the controversy over the bill was “overblown,” adding it only says “let’s push the pause button” to let other states “that don’t have as good protections as we do” catch up to Florida. Critics have called Florida’s regulations over payday loan companies “industry friendly.”
Payday loans are often used to cover an unexpected expense or to make ends meet before the next paycheck. But for many borrowers, short-term loans wind up being difficult to pay off, leading to a cycle of debt that can drag on for months.
Such loans drain $4.1 billion in annual fees from consumers in 36 states where the loans are legal, according to report this month by the non-profit Center For Responsible Lending. It found that borrowers pay $458 in fees on a typical $350, two-week loan. Interest rates in Florida for payday loans average 304 percent.MORE NEWS: RNC Donors Gather To Hear Trump, Others In Palm Beach, The GOP's 'New Political Power Center'
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