U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, along with 10 other members of Congress, has had an ethics complaint filed against him by a government watchdog organization that says he accepted campaign contributions from payday lending executives before and after co-signing a bill that supported the same payday lenders.
A representative of Fincher’s office declined to comment for this story.
A report from Campaign for Accountability — a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. — says Fincher, a Republican from Frog Jump, received a total of $13,500 in campaign contributions from July 19, 2012, to Aug. 22, 2013, from executives in the payday lending industry. On three instances in that time period, Fincher either co-signed or supported legislation that assisted the payday lending industry, the report said.
The report, which was published Monday, requested an investigation from the Office of Congressional Ethics. Anne Weismann, executive director of Campaign for Accountability, said it is hard to argue the instances are simply happenstance.
“I think anytime that members of Congress use the power of their office to benefit a specific industry is a problem,” Weismann said. “They’re aiding an industry that can only be called reprehensible. It preys on the most vulnerable members of society, and has a business model built in that you get someone locked into this cycle of debt and they can’t get out.”
The Office of Congressional Ethics does not discuss current or future investigations.
Clay Sutton is the communications manager at the Community Financial Services Association of America, which is a trade association for companies that offer payday loans. Sutton said the groups calling attention to the action by the congressmen are doing it in “pursuit of a headline.”
“This is a desperate attempt to gain publicity for a self-appointed faux ‘public interest’ group that has a narrow and ill-conceived agenda: the elimination of a credit product which is responsibly relied on by millions of Americans,” Sutton wrote in an email to The Jackson Sun.