We have requested feedback from the offices of the three Texas Congressmen mentioned in this article and will update the post upon receipt of any statements. Representative Hensarling’s chief of staff responded, and we’ve included that statement below. A commentary from the office of Pete Sessions has also been included, to match the version of this story published in print and online on October 6.-ML
WASHINGTON – Three members of Congress from Texas are at the center of an ethics complaint filed Monday by a watchdog group that wants investigators to examine a series of measures taken to support the payday loan industry and which are close to the campaign contributions of members of this industry.
Representatives Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, Pete Sessions, R-Dallas and Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock and eight other members are the subject of the complaint from the Campaign for Accountability, a new Democratic-leaning Washington-based watchdog group . Nine of the 11 members of Congress appointed are Republicans and two are Democrats.
The three Texas members sharply criticized the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a large federal agency created by the Dodd Frank Wall Street reform law that aimed to crack down on abuses by banks and others that helped create the 2008 financial crisis.
One of the powers of the CFPB is to regulate the payday loan industry, which the industry has naturally vehemently opposed.
A report last week showed that key steps taken by members of Congress in an attempt to reduce the power of the CFPB over the breakdown industry came shortly before or shortly after significant contributions to the campaign. were paid to them by the industry.
“It appears that the payday loans taken out by their constituents have helped fund big salaries for members of Congress who have used their positions to defend the interests of this unscrupulous industry,” the executive director of Campaign for Accountability said on Monday. , Anne Weismann.
“The Congressional Ethics Office should immediately investigate whether these members of Congress were abusing public trust by hauling the payday loan industry water in exchange for contributions.”
In particular, last week’s report alleged:
co-sponsored HR 1121 on March 16, 2011 – just one month after receiving two separate $ 5,000 contributions from Cash American International, and receiving a $ 1,000 contribution on March 1 from Mary Jackson of Cash America International, Inc. HR 1121 was an invoice which sought to restrict the powers of the CFPB.
Additionally, he alleges that he co-sponsored HR 4986 on July 15 of last year, a day after receiving a $ 5,000 donation for Cash America International. Similar contributions followed shortly after he signed a letter to then Attorney General Eric Holder supporting the payday industry. (None of the bills became law.)
Caroline Boothe, spokesperson for Sessions, said the allegations of impropriety were unfounded.
“Since the inception of the CFPB, Congressman Sessions has fought vigorously against its unjustified and unprecedented attack on the free enterprise system,” she said. combating the faulty practices of the liberal and unelected bureaucratic “czars” of the CFPB. “
, a powerful foe of the CFPB, was also a co-sponsor of HR 1121 in March 2011, and the report says he received $ 8,500 in campaign contributions from the industry the previous month.
Congressman Andrew Duke’s chief of staff dismissed the premise of the complaint, noting that Hensarling had opposed the CFPB since its inception.
“This so-called complaint was concocted by one liberal front group and marketed by another,” said Duke. “Congressman Hensarling has always believed that an unelected and irresponsible bureaucrat should not hold such power that he can virtually deny consumers any financial product or service – and he has been registered since 2009 to oppose this. faulty structure. The claim made by these groups is ludicrous and does not merit further comment. “
received $ 8,000 in donations in the weeks leading up to and following its decision to co-sponsor Bill 2011.
The complaint goes to the Congressional Ethics Office. A complaint does not in itself trigger an investigation. For a contribution to be illegal, it would be necessary to prove that the actions of the member of Congress were taken as a result of the contribution or as a means of soliciting the contribution. Parties that are routinely and legally subject to legislation donate to members of Congress who have the power to shape that legislation.
Here is an explanation of the Congressional Ethics Office complaints procedure, which is maintained by the United States House of Representatives.