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New Report Details Payday Lender Influence in Indiana

February 27, 2018 | Laura Friedenbach

The Payday Loan Industry Spent at Least $1.7 Million Influencing Legislators Considering a Bill to Benefit the Industry at the Expense of Low-Income Hoosiers

As Indiana lawmakers considered legislation backed by the payday loan industry to allow lenders to charge interest rates triple the size of what the state currently considers loanshark rates, a new report by Hoosier Action and national money-in-politics group Every Voice Center finds that the payday industry has spent at least $1.7 million to influence Indiana legislators over the past decade. The bill passed the Indiana House earlier this month, yet appears dead in the Senate.

“Pure and simple, this legislation would allow payday lenders to profit off the backs of working families in Indiana, and by wielding industry influence over our politicians, they almost got away with it,” said Kate Hess Pace, Executive Director of Hoosier Action. “It’s time to prioritize laws that curtail the power of special interests and give voice to everyday Hoosiers to prevent wealthy special interests from swindling us in the future.”

“Payday lenders invested in state lawmakers and were looking for a big return on their investment at the expense of low-income Hoosiers,” said Tam Doan, Research and Policy Director at Every Voice Center. “Passing this bill out of the House demonstrated how out of touch some lawmakers are with the best interests of their constituents. In order to ensure our government work for everyone, not just special interests, we must end the reliance on big donors and make politicians more accountable to their own constituents.”

Key findings from the analysis include:

  • Campaign donations and lobbying expenditures from the payday industry total at least $1.7 million since 2007. Over the past decade, the industry gave $600,000 in campaign contributions to Indiana state candidates and party committees and spent $1.1 million lobbying lawmakers, paying individuals and firms with close ties to Indiana politicians.
  • The two payday companies with the largest footprint in the state, and the most to gain from increased profits, gave the most campaign cash. Indiana has over 300 payday loan stores, currently charging an average APR close to 400 percent and draining an estimated $70 million each year in fees from Hoosiers. Check Into Cash (125 locations) contributed at least $146,850 and Advance America (77 locations) contributed at least $131,505 since 2007.
  • House Speaker Brian Bosma is the top recipient of checks from payday lenders and their lobbyists, taking at least $22,528 directly to his campaign committee. Despite opposition, including from his own church, Speaker Bosma took a rare vote as Speaker to help the payday bill pass out of the House earlier in February.
  • Sponsors of the bill that passed the House received payday industry money including Rep. Woody Burton ($9,405), Rep. Wendy McNamara ($2,800), and Rep. Martin Carbaugh ($1,800)

House Bill 1319 would authorize 12-month loans at rates up to 222 annual percentage rate (APR)—three times the state’s felony loanshark rate. These so-called “installment loans” are structured as longer, higher-dollar versions of payday loans, with similar debt trap hazards. As a result, the payday industry would be able to expand their targeting of low-income Hoosiers, putting their financial stability and wellbeing at risk.

The full report is available online at everyvoice.org/payday-indiana.

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Hoosier Action is a member-owned and -led organization fighting for a small-town agenda that puts working Hoosier families at the center, with a vision of a future where everyone can thrive. Learn more at HoosierAction.org.

Every Voice Center is a national, nonprofit organization fighting for a democracy that works for everyone. Learn more at EveryVoice.org.