Democratic National Chair and U.S. Rep. Deborah Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston) is among several Florida politicians from both parties that are under fire for taking millions in contributions from the predatory payday lending industry.
The Miami Herald reported that Wasserman Schultz was among the top individual recipients of about $2.5 million doled out to Florida politicians since 2009, according to a report by Allied Progress. The report alleges that Wasserman Schultz took $50,600.
Although the report claims Republican’s took the most money as a group ($1,083,447) the top individual recipients were Democrats: with Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Delray Beach) at $110,700; Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) $51,000 and Wasserman Schultz.
All-in-all the Democratic party took about $366,500.
The article found that more than one-third of the donations came from the MacKechnie family and their lending company, Amscot Financial. In 1998 Amscot Insurance pleaded guilty to civil racketeering charges and was banned for life from selling auto insurance in Florida. In exchange the state agreed not to pursue criminal charges). Amscot is headquartered in Tampa and boasts offices throughout the state.
“Florida’s political establishment has pushed the disastrous Florida model of payday lending on the rest of the country because they have been bought by the industry and one family and company in particular,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress.
The article alleged that according to PolitiFact Florida consumer groups, independent researchers at Pew Charitable Trusts and the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have raised multiple criticisms of Florida’s law, claiming it leaves many customers mired in a cycle of debt with high interest rate and little protection.
The NAACP, National Council of La Raza and Southern Poverty Law Center – along with 200 other groups – wrote a letter to Congress in December arguing that the “industry-backed Florida law” would hurt consumers.
Wasserman made headlines last month when it was revealed she is siding with the payday lenders instead of the opposing groups and Democrats like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Despite this the Florida congressional delegation pushed back, with most signing a letter asking the bureau to look at Florida’s law as a model for the rest of the country.
For Wasserman Schultz, the subject has become a sore point. Currently she is facing her first re-election primary challenge since winning office in 2004. Allied Progress has launched a TV ad and several billboards in her district, aiding her opponent, Nova Southeastern University Law Professor Tim Canova.
Wasserman Schultz’s spokesperson Ryan Banfill told the Miami Herald that she “has fought her whole public service career to hold unscrupulous payday lenders and others who prey on consumers accountable.”