Predatory Lending Industry Buys Gwen Graham, Janet Cruz, Sean Shaw, Other Florida Democrats


By Beth Eriksen Shoup, Contributor

The Democratic Party of Florida, having already seen progressive support erode in several of the state’s most populous counties, continues to alienate a key voting bloc by accepting contributions from the predatory lending industry.

Those companies, led by Tampa-based Amscot Financial, preys on low-income residents with a high proportion of Latinos and people of color.

Republicans are expected to welcome these tainted contributions but it stinks of hypocrisy for any Democrat to accept this dirty money.

Notable Democratic elected officials and high-profile officeseekers who have accepted payday industry political contributions include Congresspeople Charlie Crist, Kathy Castor, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz; U.S. Senator Bill Nelson; Jeremy Ring who is running statewide for Chief Financial Officer; state legislator Sean Shaw who is campaigning for Attorney General; House Minority Leader Janet Cruz seeking a State Senate seat, and gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham.

Graham has more than her share of problems.

The Miami Herald just reported that the second-biggest donor to Graham, whose voting record as a one-term Congressional back bencher has become a major campaign issue, was fined nearly $2 million for environmental violations.  Graham voted for the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The officials listed not only beg for progressive votes, they cannot win general elections without them.

The two most surprising names on the lists below are St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who won a second term last year, and Alan Grayson, a wealthy self-funder who is trying to return to Congress against Democratic incumbent Darren Soto, also a recipient of payday bucks.

According to an Allied Progress analysis of state and federal campaign finance data, the payday, title, and short-term lending industry has contributed at least $2,556,457 to Florida candidates and political parties since 2009.

This figure includes both challengers and incumbents running for U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, Florida State House of Representatives, Florida State Senate, Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer, and Agriculture Commissioner, as well as contributions to the Republican and Democratic state parties.

“Payday lenders trap Floridians in a cycle of debt while draining billions from our state’s residents,” said Bill Newton, deputy director of Florida Consumer Action Network.

“Instead of supporting tools and products that would promote financial capability, these lawmakers appear to be doing the bidding of an industry filling their campaign coffers while hurting our communities.”

Florida is the first state to pass a law designed to blunt the impact of the CFPB’s payday lending rule. A borrower who takes out a 60-day, $1,000 loan under the new law will owe fees of around $215, according to an analysis by Florida legislative staffers. A Sunshine State resident who takes out two 30-day, $500 payday loans owes $110 in fees.

Cash advance loans in Florida average about $360, which carry a $37 fee. If the borrower continues to take out that amount for seven months (the average for Amscot customers), they would pay $259 in fees for the initial $360 loan.

This Florida law that allows the “Prey” Day Lenders to lend larger sums for longer periods was passed in both chambers by Republicans AND DEMOCRATS.

Of the $2,556,457 given to Florida politicians and political parties by payday lenders since 2009, more than one-third of the money ($970,050) came from members of the Florida-based MacKechnie family and their payday lending company, Amscot Financial. Amscot was founded in 1986 to provide borrowers a bank-like alternative to a liquor store or pawn shop, said company founder Ian MacKechnie.

The company has 239 locations across Florida, focusing in areas where banking options are slim. In 1998 Amscot Financial pleaded guilty to civil racketeering charges and as part of the plea agreement stemming from these charges, the company’s founder, Ian MacKechnie, Sr., was banned for life from selling auto insurance in Florida.

Here are Democrats who have taken money from Payday Lender Lobbyists……

Candidates for U.S. House & U.S. Senate (2009 – 2016):

RON KLEIN $27,400
TED DEUTCH $14,500
ALLEN BOYD $14,000
JOE GARCIA $12,000
ALEX SINK $9,750

Candidates for Florida State House & Senate (2009 – 2014)
that you may just know:

Oscar Branyon II $2,500
Janet Cruz $2,000
Arthenia Joyner $2,000
Rick Kriseman $1,500
Daryl Rousson $2,000
Betty Reed $500
Jeremy Ring $2,000
Sean Shaw $1,000
Alex Sink (governor’s race) $4,500

I questioned Hillsborough County DEC Chairwoman Ione Townsend about the party accepting a $1,000 Platinum Sponsorship from Amscot for the annual Spring Fling. Her response:

“Damn Citizens United. Until we take control of the House and Senate and change some laws we are stuck with this terrible campaign finance system we find ourselves in. Until then we have to raise money to compete. If we do not, we do not win. That is the unfortunate reality! I personally do not see our candidates or the party as ‘for sale’.”

I then invited her to join our chapter of Move to Amend and help us overturn Citizens United. Democrats are for sale when they take money from lobbyists and then support the legislation that favors them. It happens on both sides of the aisle.

Are we that desperate for money that we sell out the working poor, whom we say we care about, for a $1000 dollars? WHAT and WHO do we stand for?




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