N.J.’s Garrett hit with ethics complaint over support for payday lenders

By: Jonathan Salant, NJ.com, 10/6/2015

WASHINGTON — A watchdog group has filed an ethics complaint against U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett and 10 other lawmakers, charging them with taking actions to benefit payday lenders while accepting campaign contributions from the industry.

The complaint was filed by the Campaign for Accountability, some of whose advisory board members have ties to the Democratic Party.

The group asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Garrett (R-5th Dist.) and the other lawmakers, including both Democrats and Republicans, who received campaign donations from payday lenders around the same time they sponsored legislation to rein in the Consumer Financial Protection Board’s ability to regulate the industry, or complained about Justice Department actions against these businesses.

“It seems payday loans taken out by their constituents helped fund big paydays for members of Congress who used their positions to advocate on behalf of this unscrupulous industry,” executive director Anne Weismann said.

The Office of Congressional Ethics makes recommendations to the House Ethics Committee as to whether the panel should investigate allegations against sitting lawmakers.

“Rep. Garrett has always made his decisions based on his principles and what is best for hardworking New Jersey families who are trying to reach their financial goals,” said Chris Carofine, Garrett’s spokesman. “The congressman’s record opposing onerous regulations — including those proposed by the unaccountable CFPB — speaks for itself.”

The agency “has been insulated from congressional oversight despite its hugely negative impact on almost every facet of American business, which is why Garrett has always supported a complete overhaul of the agency,” Carofine said.