McAuliffe accepts payday lenders’ support


Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, marching with the Prince William County Democrats, works the crowd during the Dale City Fourth of July Parade. (Eva Russo/The Washington Post)
August 1, 2013

RICHMOND — Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who took a hard line against payday lenders in his bid for governor four years ago, has accepted their support this time around.

McAuliffe had a fund-raiser this week at the Alexandria home of Charles Halloran, in-house lobbyist for the Community Financial Services Association of America, the payday loan trade association.

In March, McAuliffe received a combined $15,000 in donations from William M. Webster IV and Lindsay Webster. William Webster is co-founder of payday lending giant Advance America, which in 2010 paid $18.8 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by consumers who said it had charged illegally high interest rates, according to news accounts at the time.

McAuliffe faces Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) in the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R).

McAuliffe vowed to shut down payday lenders in 2009, when he made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for governor.

“As Governor, Terry will establish a total ban on payday lending that siphons off the hard-earned wages of too many working Virginians,” his 2009 campaign Web site said. He ran a radio ad in that campaign that decried lenders for charging rates as high as 391 percent. He promised to stop them from “preying on Virginia’s most vulnerable families.”

“For Terry McAuliffe, the solution is simple,” the ad said. “He is the only candidate for governor who proposed doing the right thing — ban all predatory lending in Virginia.”

A 2009 Washington Post feature on McAuliffe described him hollering at a payday lending office as he drove by.

“‘Shut it down!’ he yelled out the open window of his hybrid Chevy Tahoe one Saturday afternoon as it rolled past a payday loan office. ‘Nothing gets me more excited,’ he said afterward. ‘Chicken waste and payday loans, I get excited.’”

Republicans called McAuliffe hypocritical for accepting support from those lenders now.

“Terry McAuliffe has once again revealed his penchant for saying one thing and then doing another,” said Michael Short, spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

McAuliffe’s current campaign Web site does not appear to have any reference to payday lenders, but campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin said his position on the issue has not changed.

“Halloran and Webster are both old personal friends who worked with Terry more than twenty years ago, there has been no change in policy from Terry,” Schwerin said via e-mail.

“He remains deeply concerned about the impact some lenders have on low income Virginians and would support efforts to dramatically increase protections for Virginia borrowers. Those protections could include tightening restrictions on frequency of borrowing, interest rates charged, and ratios of fees to total amount borrowed, among other protections. These protections would dramatically change the industry and would lead to more prosperous Virginia families.”

Advance America has given generously to Virginia politicians on both sides of the aisle, handing out nearly $300,000 in contributions since 2000, according to the non-partisan Virginia Public Access project.

Cuccinelli received a total of $1,000 from the company in 2007 and 2009, when he was a state senator. He received $6,000 from another payday lender, Ace Cash Express, this year for his gubernatorial campaign.

In July, Cuccinelli filed a lawsuit against Jupiter Funding Group, an Internet payday lender, accusing it of operating without a state license.

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.
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