Payday lenders spent $300,000 to influence SC lawmakers

The StateFebruary 17, 2009 

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Public records show the payday lending industry spent nearly $300,000 in 2008 in political donations and on lobbyists as the General Assembly sought to regulate the short-term, high-interest loans that have been banned in other states.

Payday lenders gave more than $100,000 to S.C. lawmakers, state officeholders and political groups in 2008, a year in which the entire General Assembly was up for election. And the industry spent more than $180,000 on a cadre of lobbyists around the State House.

The spending on lobbyists, public records show, intensified in the second half of 2008. That was after Senate lawmakers came within three votes of approving a bill that would ban the industry and lawmakers ultimately failed to pass a bill regulating payday lending.

From June to December, the trade group for payday lenders, Community Financial Services Association of America, paid lobbyists more than $143,000, according to reports filed with the State Ethics Commission. The group had 10 registered lobbyists.

Check Into Cash paid out $41,800 to lobbyists from June through December 2008, and handed out an additional $18,000 in contributions to lawmakers, political action committees, and to the Senate Republican and Democratic caucuses, at $6,000 each.

Advance America, the largest payday lender in the United States, doled out $35,500 in contributions to S.C. politicians over six months through their registered lobbyist in the state, Carol A. Stewart, after the Legislature adjourned in June. Filing for the year was incomplete as of Friday, the ethics commission said.

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