Monday, January 23, 2012

Countrywide, CashAmerica and Pete Sessions

Cash America
The photo above is not of the official campaign headquarters of Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), Richardson's Congressman since about forever. Nor is it even Sessions's official fundraising headquarters, although you'd be forgiven if you thought it was. Let's just call it his unofficial something.

After the jump, Pete Sessions in the news.

According to MapLight, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, the largest contributors to Pete Sessions's re-election campaign from July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2011 were Cash America International and Bank of America. CashAmerica is a big payday lender, a practice sometimes accused of offering short-term loans with exorbitant fees and usurious interest rates to people who can least afford it. That photo above is one of CashAmerica's outlets in Sessions's Congressional district on Coit Rd at Spring Valley Rd. Apparently, some of the profits that come out of such operations are channeled back into Pete Sessions's campaign coffers.

And that second largest contributor to Pete Sessions, Bank of America? Sessions was also in the news recently when it was revealed that he is the fourth current member of the House of Representatives to benefit from a "sweetheart deal" from defunct sub-prime mortgage lender Countrywide. Let's connect the dots. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, "In December 2004, [Sessions] appeared with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and [Countrywide co-founder Angelo] Mozilo to announce the expansion of a Countrywide office in Richardson, Texas, which was supported by a $20 million state grant." Sessions later "received a $1 million loan in 2007 through Countrywide's VIP program, which at times offered loans at rates unavailable to the general public." When the subprime mortgage market went bust in 2008, Countrywide was bought by Bank of America for pennies on the dollar. Bank of America says it ended the VIP program when it bought Countrywide. But it does channel money into Pete Sessions's campaign coffers.

No one has alleged that there is anything illegal about the relationship between Pete Sessions and the banks and payday lenders. In fact, money influencing politics is more legal than ever, thanks in part to Pete Sessions's opposition to campaign finance reform. The only thing unusual is that, this time, it made the news. That's politics. That's Pete Sessions.


dc-tm said...

For a long time in Texas you could not get a home equity loan. I liked it that way because it did a good job of protecting people from themselves. Things changed and th loan were allowed. Allowing the loans expanded the economy at the cost of putting people into debt.

I very much dislike the payday loan organizations in large part because they do take advantage of the people who can least afford being taken advantage of.

My personal preference would be to see both home equity loans and payday loans businesses go away.

But, since I place a high value in letting people take care of themselves and be responsible for themself, it is difficult to strongly argue for the law to forbid these things, even if it is for the protection of people who may not make the best choices for themselves.

glbeach said...

No disrespect to dc-tm, but I must disagree with your conclusion that "it is difficult to strongly argue for the law to forbid these things, even if it is for the protection of people who may not make the best choices for themselves." These laws - and these types of laws - are exactly what (used to) keep society civil. Now exploiting poverty is a business model.

Businesses and corporations are by nature soul-less creatures forced to compete by whatever means gives them an edge. These days what gives them an edge is 'contributing' to politicians - who then distort and pervert the regulated free markets to give these contributors certain benefits - which then is essentially divvied up between the business and the politician. And it is all legal. Not ethical. Not moral. But legal.

dc-tm said...

No disrespect taken glbeach. Your last line goes to the heart of the matter; Not ethical, not moral, but yet, it is legal.

Nathan Morgan said...

Liberty is not free. It comes with a responsibility to do no harm to others. Unfortunately, morality is impossible to legislate.

Frequently laws, ordinances and regulations are enacted by the influence of special interests having no regard for the fellow man.

Not that it is anyone's responsibility, but taking liberty with great potential for doing harm to others is the issue.

This circumstance is common up and down the political spectrum. One does not have to look far beyond their doorstep or mailbox to find evidence.

The Richardson Citizens Alliance learned of the Sessions connection to such activities along with countless others involved with the decision to grant incentives to CountryWide and its move to Richardson. Endorsement of Gary Slagel for re-election stuck out like a sore thumb.

If Stale Law required local elected officials to release their financial records, I imagine we would discover sweetheart deals from mortgages to car loans to accompany the free Eisemann tickets and other goodies our local public servants enjoy at the expense of those who elected them.

Nathan Morgan said...

There is also something to be said about the sense of fiduciary to the citizenry public servants carry.

The culture of taking advantage of amenities by virtue of public office, including free doughnuts and meals the cops often demand, is a cancer on society. The explosion in the number of public employees is evidence that working in government is the best job in town. It gets worse with every newly-created position.

The circus atmosphere at all levels of government lends new meaning to P.T. Barnum's famous quote, "There's a sucker born every minute."

Without morality, the unscrupulous will take the liberty to exploit the trappings of office and the people they were hired to serve. The longer in office, the worse it gets.

Mark Steger said...

The gravy train continues to roll. "Payday lenders gave $15M to GOP campaigns in 2014 races":

"Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the Financial Services Committee, which oversees payday lenders, led congressional recipients by collecting $210,500 from the industry. ... Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) received $76,630."