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What was Senator Dodd doing on May 19?

June 15, 2009

Last week the New York Times ran this editorial about a confusing event that took place on May 19.  The Huffington Post originally covered the confusion in this May 20 story called “Dodd Dinner with Online Payday Lenders Transforms Into Fundraiser.”  Senator Dodd (D, CT) is the Chair of the Senate Banking Committee.

According to Senator Dodd’s staff, the dinner was a fundraiser hosted for Dodd by Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota, who is the #2 Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, and one of five Senators to vote against Dodd’s Credit CARD Act. He was the only Democrat to vote against the bill, which passed 90-5.  The two make strange companions, but perhaps this sort of thing is common in Washington.

But what is truly strange is that the dinner was actually listed as part of the agenda (PDF) of the Online Lending Association’s spring conference.  The Online Lending Association (OLA) is “an industry group for payday lenders that troll for customers on the Web.”

The Times chides Dodd for getting anywhere near this group, and apparently Dodd knew it was a bad idea, and so insisted to the press that the dinner was just a fundraiser that some OLA people would happen to attend.

The Times also urges Senator Dodd to co-sponsor S. 500, the Protecting Consumers from Unreasonable Credit Rates Act.  This bill would cap interest rates at 36% nationwide, and effectively ban payday lending.

Perhaps getting wind of the editorial before it was published on June 10, Dodd became a co-sponsor of S. 500 on June 9.

While this whole sequence of events is pretty fishy, in the end we applaud Dodd for his co-sponsorship of S. 500, his support of a Consumer Watchdog Agency, and his work on the new credit card law.  He’s up for re-election in 2010, so let’s hope he pushes through lots more consumer friendly measures as the election draws near.

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