Luis's Payday?

Watchdogs question contributions

The payday lending industry is making an investment in U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) that is paying off in multiples - raising the ire of activists and the notice of campaign finance watchdogs.

"Gutierrez chairs a House subcommittee that oversees consumer credit," WBEZ reports. "He’s taking the lead on a payday-lending reform bill."

Depending on what one means by "taking the lead."

Some consumer groups, WBEZ reports, say Gutierrez has softened his stance on the industry.

At the same time, the Center for Responsive Politics notes that Gutierrez's top campaign donor is QC Holding, a large Kansas-based payday lender (it has 585 branches).

"A study by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington found Gutierrez 11th among Congressional recipients of campaign donations from the payday-loan industry," WBEZ reports.

The blogosphere has been hammering Gutierrez on the issue.

Two recent posts from Progress Illinois: "Gutierrez' Questionable Payday Loan Reform," and "Gutierrez: Banning Payday Loans 'Not Possible'." Gutierrez once supported banning payday lending.

The Chicago congressman gets it even worse from Consumerist, which writes "A House subcommittee wants to legalize payday loans with interest rates of up to 391%. Lobbyists from the payday industry bought Congress' support by showering influential members, including Chairman Luiz Gutierrez, with campaign cash. The Congressman is now playing good cop, bad cop with the payday industry, which is pretending to oppose his generous gift of a bill."

The post is accompanied by a photo of Gutierrez on Meet the Press with the dialogue balloon "I Hate the Poor" PhotoShopped in.

Just as Gutierrez did not comment to WBEZ, Gutierrez’s office would not talk to The Washington Independent. "But in an interview with The Associated Press, " the Independent reports, "the Illinois Democrat conceded that the growing influence of the payday lending industry contributed to his change of heart.

“While they may not be JP Morgan Chase or Bank of America, they’re very powerful,” Gutierrez said. “Their influence should not be underestimated.”

Proof positive that the industry's campaign contributions are paying off.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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