Faith Community Calls on Candidates to Return Contributions, Take Strong Stance Against Predatory Lending Practices
Richmond, VA – Today the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy sent a letter, signed by members of Virginia’s diverse faith community, to all 7 statewide candidates calling on them to return campaign contributions from car title and payday lenders. This comes the day after Bishop Young Jin Cho, Virginia’s United Methodist Bishop, publicly called on Mr. Cuccinelli and Mr. McAuliffe to return contributions from these lenders and commit to promoting public policies that protect Virginia consumers from any predatory practices.
These actions come in the wake of revelations that many of the candidates have accepted campaign contributions from the lenders themselves, as well as the founders of some of these businesses. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, this year alone the gubernatorial candidates have accepted $34,000 in contributions from the lenders; their founders; or related in-kind donations.
Though some protections were put in place in 2009 with the passage of the Virginia Payday Loan Act; consumer advocates believe that much work remains to be done in this arena. For example, some lenders are able to escape the terms of the law by offering new, open-end products that are not regulated nor tracked by the state; while other internet lenders are offering illegal loans to Virginians. Today’s call from the faith community asks candidates not to accept donations from the industry so as to better remain neutral in the policy debates ahead. As Bishop Cho wrote, there is a need for “our elected representatives to protect consumers from unscrupulous lenders, especially illegal Internet lenders. That has to start with leadership in the highest office of our Commonwealth.”
But Bishop Cho is not the only faith leader making the request. The letter sent today expresses a concern shared across traditions. “From the Hindu Sutra, to the Christian New Testament and in Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist teaching as well, lenders are cautioned not to take advantage of the poor,” states the letter. “Our request is rooted in our shared concern to care for ‘the least of those’ in our midst, including economically disadvantaged members of our communities who are too often lured into car title and payday loans, usually without knowledge of the full cost, consequence, or abusive practices of lenders that they are subjecting themselves to.”
The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy is Virginia’s oldest faith-based advocacy group and works to unite faith communities to reduce poverty in Virginia by advocating for proven and effective public policies. For many years, the Center has advocated for state policies that protect consumers from the predatory practices of car title, payday and other lenders.