CfA Files Ethics Complaints Against 14 Members of Congress Alleging Bribery by the Payday Lending Industry

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 3, 2018

Contact: Daniel Stevens, dstevens@campaignforaccountability.org, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, asked the Senate Select Committee on Ethics and the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate whether two senators and 12 representatives violated congressional rules and criminal law by accepting campaign contributions from the payday lending industry shortly before or after taking official actions in support of the industry’s priorities.

The 14 members of Congress named in the complaints include: Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM), Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME), Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), and Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS).

Read the ethics complaints here.

CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens stated, “It’s no coincidence that members of Congress fought for the payday lending industry’s priorities while raising money from the industry at the same time. This appears to be a textbook example of pay-to-play behavior.”

CfA’s ethics complaints follow a new report from consumer watchdog organization Allied Progress that details the official actions taken by members of Congress in very close proximity to receiving tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from payday lending industry executives and industry political action committees (PACs).

These official actions include supporting legislation that would have impaired the ability of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to regulate the payday lending industry; supporting legislation designed to weaken the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Operation Choke Point program, which prevents payday lenders and other unscrupulous companies from gaining access to the banking system; and sending letters to the CFPB and DOJ defending the payday lending industry.

The suspicious timing of these actions, either directly preceding or following campaign contributions from the payday lending industry, suggests these campaign contributions were made in exchange for legislative assistance in apparent violation of federal bribery laws and congressional rules.

In October 2015, CfA filed a similar ethics complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics against 11 representatives alleging collusion with the payday lending industry. The eight overlapping members of Congress that were named in both the October 2015 complaint and in today’s complaint include: Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS).

Read CfA’s October 2015 ethics complaint here.

Stevens continued, “Not only is this behavior potentially illegal, the idea that members of Congress are trading official actions for campaign contributions undermines public confidence in the institution as a whole – and they did it at the behest of an industry that preys on the poorest people in the country.  The Office of Congressional Ethics and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics should immediately investigate whether members of Congress advanced the payday lending industry’s agenda simply to raise money for their campaigns.”

Campaign for Accountability is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, nonpartisan watchdog organization that uses research, litigation and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.

Senate Complaint

Office of Congressional Ethics Complaint