MIAMI — A liberal group is spending $100,000 in television ads in South Florida to call out embattled Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz for not cracking down harder on what many call the predatory practices of the payday lending industry.
Allied Progress, in its 30-second ad, uses the representative's recent appearance on a local Sunday public affairs show to slam her for co-sponsoring a bill that would delay the federal Consumer Financial Protection Board from regulating the business.
Payday lenders have been a target of criticism by politicians and consumer advocates, who argue the industry charges extremely high interest rates to customers, who are often the poor. The industry has argued it provides a necessary financial service to people in need of emergency funds.
The ad features Wasserman Schultz saying "payday lending is unfortunately … necessary" during an April 10 interview on CBS-4's Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede.
"No, congresswoman, it's predatory," says a voice-over. "Tell Debbie Wasserman Schultz to stop siding with payday lenders."
"How anyone could describe this racket as 'necessary' — unfortunate or not — is beyond me," Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress, told the Associated Press in announcing the six-figure ad buy. The ad started Tuesday in the in the Miami market.
He also bashes Wasserman Schultz for collecting more than $68,000 in campaign contributions from the payday lending industry, citing figures from the Center for Responsible Politics.
Ryan Banfill, Wasserman Schultz's campaign spokesman, said "the ad, like all the others, intentionally takes her out of context."
He said the Wasserman Schultz said "payday lending is unfortunately a necessary component of how people get access to capital that are working poor" and that increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour would make payday loans unnecessary.
"This is a Super PAC masquerading as a consumer group," he said. "The group apparently has decided they can't win a debate without resorting to distortions and bullying."
He added that Wasserman Schultz "will continue to fight hard to protect consumers as her constituents know she always has."
The ad buy comes at a time when Wasserman Schultz is facing a serious challenger in the Democratic primary for Florida's 23rd Congressional District seat and has come under fire from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Tim Canova, a university law professor, has raised more than $1.5 million and gotten an endorsement of Sanders. She's held the seat since 2005. The district is heavily Democratic, so the winner of the Aug. 30 primary is all but assured of winning the general election in November.
The Sanders campaign has accused her of providing more favorable conditions to front-runner Hillary Clinton during the primaries, pointing to the quantity and timing of debates and a dispute over access to party data.
Wasserman Schultz is one of 24 co-sponsors of H.R. 4018, a bipartisan bill that would allow states, including Florida, to continue to regulate payday lenders instead of the federal government and delay federal rules for two years. Half the bill's co-sponsors are from Florida.