Heenan: Why doesn’t Gianforte reject payday loans like Montanans do?

John Heenan is a Democrat running for Montana’s seat on the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018.

Running low on cash? Need a short-term loan. You can get a “Payday” loan. But watch out.

A client of mine took out a $500 loan from a payday loan company and was gouged for $2,100. And she still owed the original amount. Starting in 2011, for three years, as a consumer protection advocate, I fought for my client and more than 400 other Montana victims of egregious payday loans. We successfully forced the company to give the money back to people who had paid them, forgive the debts for people who were still on the hook and kicked the company out of doing business in Montana.

In 2010, Montanans rejected this predatory behavior and passed a ballot initiative law that caps the amount a Payday loan companies can charge at 36 percent.

In the face of Montanan common sense and strong consumer protection in Montana, a number of bad acting Pay Day loan companies scurried out of the Big Sky State. Where did they go?

Washington, D.C.

According to OpenSecrets.org, since 2009 the Payday Loan industry makes well more than $4 million in donations annually to Members of Congress, industry political action committees and dirty dark money groups. In fact, that figure is commonly closer to $5 million a year. So far, in the 2017-2018 period, the payday loan lobbyists and companies have poured in more than $1 million.

What are they paying for? It’s called H.R. 3299.

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3299, cynically names the “Protecting Consumers Access to Credit Act,” with a vote of 245-171 on February 14, 2018.

The bill undermines Montana’s law that caps payday loan interest rates, allowing predatory payday lenders and other non-bank entities using rent-a-bank arrangements to do so. If passed, this enables payday lenders to make loans of 300 percent annual interest or higher regardless what Montana state law allows.

Who was right there with the payday loan lobbyists, voting for H.R. 3299 and to undermine Montana’s laws? Rep. Greg Gianforte, Montana’s sole representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. That is the same Greg Gianforte, who recently reported accepting more than $53,000 in corporate political action committee donations since I announced my candidacy against him.

It is far past the time that Montanans can tolerate this inside the beltway, dirty dark money model that controls our country. This payday loan hoax is just one issue that inspired me to run to replace Rep. Gianforte and to work for all the people of Montana, not just the ultra-wealthy, corporations and insurance companies. He has voted to slice into Medicare and Social Security to cover tax breaks for wealthy corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals like himself. And his record of undermining Montanan’s access to public lands is horrendous.

In the 1976 movie “Network,” the frustrated news anchor Howard Beale urged citizens to join him in calling out: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

My fellow Montanans, this is real life. Calling out is not enough. Register to vote and please vote in the interest of all Montanans.

John Heenan is a Democratic candidate running for Montana’s seat on the U.S. House of Representatives.