Cara Spencer

There’s money to be made in predatory lending. Big money. And when that is threatened, it’s no surprise that an industry that preys on the poor turns to bullying tactics.

But what is a surprise is that some of our region’s most highly regarded and trusted institutions allow their good reputations to be represented by the same man that represents the interests of the payday lending industry.

Lou Hamilton is the lobbyist paid to represent the interests of The St. Louis Art Museum, The St. Louis Zoo, BJC, Anheuser-Busch, the St. Louis Cardinals and our public transit entity, Bi-State. The same man is the paid lobbyist for a consortium of payday lenders, six, in fact. It is absolutely shameful that Lou Hamilton is willing to disparage the reputations of some of St. Louis’ most prestigious institutions by simultaneously representing one of the most rapacious industries side-by-side at City Hall, in the state Legislature and everywhere else he goes.

Neither I nor the Consumers Council of Missouri would gain anything from the passage of restrictions other than the satisfaction of St. Louis lessening the impacts of financial degradation by payday lending.

The ethical question is: Why would anyone lobby for the continued ability for payday lenders to suck millions of dollars out of our poorest neighborhoods? 

In our state, we have allowed payday lenders to run amok, with over 11 percent of Missourians taking out a payday loan every year. Missouri has quite literally the laxest laws in the country regulating this industry, despite Lou Hamilton claiming there are “already tight restrictions” on an industry that has more storefronts in Missouri than McDonalds, Starbucks and Wal-Mart stores combined.

Please let these institutions know that who they choose to represent their interests is important to our region’s reputation. Our collective reputation deserves better than being tarnished by direct association with payday lending.

Cara Spencer is executive director of Consumers Council of Missouri and 20th Ward alderwoman in St. Louis.

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