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December 18, 2013

The Revolving Door Spins for Rep. Joe Baca

By David Crockett

Joe Baca portraitWhen online payday lenders launched a new lobbying group to short-circuit federal oversight of their predatory business practices, Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA) was there for them. And now that he’s out of office, they’re there for him.

In May 2011, Rep. Baca introduced the Federal Financial Services and Credit Companies Charter Act of 2011, and co-sponsored an updated version of it, the Consumer Credit Access, Innovation and Modernization Act, in 2012. These bills would have established a new federal charter for all non-bank lenders and exempted them from oversight by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Creating a federal charter system would exempt them from state oversight as well. In April 2012, some payday lending companies, including Cash America, created a new group, the Financial Services Innovation Coalition (FSIC), to lobby Congress in favor of the legislation. The group spent $80,000 lobbying with little success, managing only a subcommittee hearing where a Cash America lobbyist testified in favor of the legislation, which then languished in a House subcommittee.

Despite nearly $15,000 in contributions from Cash America employees and its political action committee (PAC), Rep. Baca lost his bid for re-election in November 2012 and left Congress last January. A month later, the FSIC hired Rep. Baca as its new CEO. His former chief of staff, Linda Macias, is working with the group as well. In June, Rep. Baca wrote CFPB Director Richard Cordray and urged him to avoid regulating the payday loan industry. Rep. Baca’s old bill, meanwhile, has been reintroduced in the 113th Congress, with support from the FSIC. Last month, Rep. Baca and the organization held a roundtable in the Cannon House Office Building about “creating new credit options.”

Even as former Rep. Baca is leading the charge for payday lenders in Washington, he’s launched another battle — to return to Congress. In April 2013, Rep. Baca announced another bid for the House, touting himself as “Working Joe” and a “voice for the poor and disadvantaged.” He has announced endorsements from 30 House Democrats. Rep. Baca has been raising money as well, including $2,500 from Cash America’s PAC so far this cycle. In 2013, Baca for Congress has so far spent more than $5,000 on fundraising services from Ms. Macias’ firm, The Macias Group. As his bid for Congress ramps up, it’s worth asking who he really wants to represent.

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