Alcee Hastings and Patrick Murphy face attacks over payday lender support

Published May 11, 2016

Reps. Alcee Hastings and Patrick Murphy are in a contest they don't want to win.

Allied Progress said Wednesday that online voters have chosen the two Florida Democrats to be the target of an ad campaign over their support of payday lenders.

The final round of voting begins May 23 with a "winner" to be announced June 7 with paid media including television advertising, the liberal group said. It has already financed ads against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

"The public's interest in helping us to select the next congressional payday lending industry ally to be exposed has been overwhelming. With thousands of votes cast, Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alcee Hastings have emerged as the clear frontrunners for this dubious distinction," said Allied Progress executive director Karl Frisch.

"Murphy and Hastings have worked overtime in their efforts to sabotage President Obama's fight to rein in predatory payday lenders. They have taken tens of thousands of dollars from payday loan sharks while Florida families pay the price."

The group noted that Hastings has taken nearly $117,000 from payday lenders over his career while Murphy has taken $51,000 in a shorter time. All told, the industry has given $2.5 million to Florida politicians and candidates since 2009, according to a report released Wednesday.

"Both Hastings and Murphy signed a letter encouraging Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) director Richard Cordray to adopt the disastrous 'Florida model' of payday lending reform," the group said. "Murphy is also the sponsor and Hastings a cosponsor of H.R. 4018, which would gut the CFPB's upcoming payday loan regulations by delaying those new rules in favor of states with Florida-style laws where the average borrower is saddled with nine 300%+ interest loans each year and nearly one-in-three are burdened with a dozen or more."

Murphy, who is running for Senate, has defended Florida's law, as have nearly all members of Florida's congressional delegation.

"The regulations on the industry are some of the strongest here in Florida, stronger than almost any other state," he said during a conference call with reporters in April. "This was legislation passed at the state level after years and years of back and forth, bipartisan legislation, cracking down on the bad actors, making sure that people are not being taken advantage of."

But a report issued by an array of consumer groups criticized the regulations, noting the high interest and calling the 24-hour cooling off period insufficient. "In spite of the industry-backed Florida law, 88% of repeat loans were made before the borrower's next paycheck," a December memo says.