Payday loan industry ramps up activity

The payday loan industry has been steadily increasing its lobbying efforts in Congress, a new report finds.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released a study today concluding that payday lenders tripled their lobbying expenditures over three years. In 2005, the industry spent $730,000 on registered lobbyists. That number jumped to $2,141,250 by 2008.

Campaign donations have followed suit. Between 2004 and 2008, the industry's donations--including those by employees and PAC's of the five largest single lenders--rose to $1,248,413 from $519,399.

CREW attributes the increased activity, quite logically, to a Democratic administration and growing legislative demand for regulation of the industry.

In 2006, Congress passed a law forbidding interest rates higher than 36% for "consumer loans" to military service members. Proponents of the law argued that members of the military often fall prey to payday lenders who set up shop near military bases.

Last year, Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSpending bill doesn't include Cruz internet fight Overnight Tech: GOP says internet fight isn't over | EU chief defends Apple tax ruling | Feds roll out self-driving car guidelines | Netflix's China worries Reid blasts Cruz over internet fight MORE (D-Ill.) introduced legislation to expand that rate ceiling for all payday loan recipients, but the bill died. Durbin has re-introduced that legislation this session.

Moreover, Rep. Luis GutierrezLuis GutierrezThe Hill's 12:30 Report Election watchdog scrutinizing Florida Dem Senate candidate Juan Williams: Dems should not take Latinos for granted MORE (D-Ill.) is pushing the "Payday Loan Reform Act," a more modest regulation that is nevertheless officially opposed by the industry. (Consumer advocates contend it's too weak.)

For more on the contours of payday loan regulation, check out Silla Brush's piece from early April.