Offering what one observer called “a crystal clear picture of how money buys influence in U.S. politics,” leaked audio obtained Tuesday by consumer watchdog group Allied Progress showed executives from some of the largest payday lenders in the U.S. boasting about how they have used campaign donations to purchase access to President Donald Trump’s White House.
One of the audio clips posted online by Allied Progress features Advance Financial founder and CEO Michael Hodges explaining how his donations to Trump’s presidential campaign have given him the power to contact the White House about desired policy changes.
“It’s not surprising payday lenders are exploiting President Trump’s fondness for quid pro quos, because it clearly works.”
—Derek Martin, Allied Progress
“When you go and speak to the administration through the campaign, they will listen,” said Hodges. “For example, I’ve gone to [Republican National Committee Chairwoman] Ronna McDaniel and said, ‘Ronna, I need help on something,’ she’s been able to call over to the White House and say, ‘Hey, we have one of our large givers. They need an audience. They want, they need to be heard. And you need to listen to them.'”
Hodges said the Trump White House “has been helpful on this particular rule that we’re working on right now,” apparently referring to an Obama-era Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regulation designed to prevent consumers from falling into debt traps due to high-interest loans.
The CFPB, run by Trump appointee Kathy Kraninger, took the first steps toward scrapping the rule in February. Allied Progress said “the payday industry will reap over $7 billion every year in fees from the most vulnerable communities in the United States” if the CFPB succeeds in killing the regulation.
Listen to Hodges’ remarks, which came during a September 24 webinar with a group of payday lending executives:
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Max Wood of Borrow Smart Compliance, a consultant for the payday industry, said during the webinar that “the needle moved in our favor” after Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election.
“President Trump is really the backstop,” said Wood.
In a statement Tuesday, Allied Progress director Derek Martin said the recordings represent “the worst of Washington, D.C.—wealthy executives buying off politicians so they can keep their predatory business model intact.”
“It’s not surprising payday lenders are exploiting President Trump’s fondness for quid pro quos, because it clearly works,” added Martin. “The president and his team at the CFPB have no good reason to push millions more people towards 400 percent interest loans and the payday debt trap. They’re acting solely on the millions of bad reasons payday lenders keep contributing to his campaign, and the industry clearly feels emboldened by that.”
“The president pledged to drain the swamp, instead it appears he’s catering to the alligators,” Martin said.
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