Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Washington’s 5th CD) has been a dependable champion of Wall Street’s political agenda throughout her 14 years in Congress. Parroting the bogus claims of bankers, payday lenders, and their lobbyists, she rails against “job-crushing” financial regulations, etc., while using the powers of her office to help such companies enrich themselves at the expense of consumers, homeowners, investors, taxpayers, or the safety and stability of the overall financial system and economy.
Banks, payday lenders and their lobbyists have in turn been massive funders of McMorris Rodgers’ political career. In all, she has collected almost $3 million in campaign contributions from financial and real estate interests, more than from any other sector of the economy.
Rep. McMorris Rodgers’ top 20 corporate benefactors since 2005 include the scandal-ridden Wells Fargo bank ($76,900), the online payday, car-title and installment loan giant MoneyTree ($74,200), and the American Bankers Association ($65,000). In the current election cycle, she has received contributions from MoneyTree ($51,600), Acorn Ventures ($25,800), Berkshire Hathaway ($22,900), USAA ($22,500), Goldman Sachs ($21,050), PricewaterhouseCoopers ($20,000), Deloitte LLP ($20,000), Morgan Stanley ($21,050), Continental Investors ($20,800), Deloitte LLP ($20,000), Fisher Investments $15,800), JW Childs Associates ($15,400), Northwood Investors (15,000), Morgan Stanley ($13,050), Stifel Financial ($12,300), the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts ($11,500), MetLife ($11,500), the American Bankers Association ($11,000), State Street bank ($10,750), Third Point LLC ($10,400), Ernst & Young ($10,000), National Venture Capital Association ($10,000), Scoggin Capital Management ($10,000), Arch Venture Partners ($10,000), Vector Capital ($10,000), and UBS ($10,000).
Storefront payday lenders have been major backers of McMorris Rodgers, donating $34,600 to her 2018 reelection campaign. That figure includes $10,000 from a PAC linked to QC Holdings (now QCHI), which operates nearly 400 retail payday (QuikCash), car-title and installment loan shops across the country, charging triple-digit interest and routinely burying customers in unmanageable long-term debt. Rodgers earned the payday loan industry’s trust with her broad opposition to the financial reforms of the Dodd Frank Act and her specific support for proposals to slash the funding and authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal agency that last year came out with a set of nationwide rules meant to remove the worst debt-trap loans from the marketplace.
It would be hard to find a more consistent congressional supporter of Wall Street deregulation than Rep. McMorris Rodgers. In 2017 and 2018, Americans for Financial Reform (a coalition of more than 200 consumer and other public-interest groups) tracked 38 House floor votes on measures that would make it easier for Wall Street banks and other financial companies to take reckless bets or enrich themselves at the expense of the society as a whole. Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted for all 38, including proposals to:
- Let big banks boost profits by reducing the capital reserves they have to set aside as a safeguard against losses (HR 4296, voted for);
- Make it easier for mortgage lenders, payday lenders, and credit card companies to stick people with hidden fees and unexpected charges by sharply reducing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s funding and powers (HR 10, voted for);
- Repeal the “Volcker Rule,” which bars the big Wall Street banks from playing reckless games with insured deposits and other taxpayer-subsidized funds (HR 10, voted for);
- Roll back consumer credit safeguards for mobile (or manufactured) homes, making it easier to steer borrowers into high-cost loans with excessive fees and interest – in an industry that has long been ride with such abuses (HR 1699, voted for);
- Weaken oversight of the Big 3 credit ratings agencies, Moody’s, Standard & Poors, and Fitch, which had made huge sums of money by slapping triple-A ratings on toxic mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the financial crisis (HR 3911, voted for);
- Give Wall Street banks and other large financial companies a new way to undo rules they dislike, by requiring the explicit approval of both houses of Congress before any major regulation takes effect. (HR 26, co-sponsored); and
- Strip consumers of the right to band together and take banks and other financial companies to court over systematic wrongdoing, leaving them with no recourse except to submit an individual complaint to a corporate-friendly private arbitration firm. This is a system that effectively operates as a corporate Get out of Jail Free Card, since the arbitration firms are typically chosen by (and dependent on future business from) the company being complained against, and the damage suffered by any one victim is rarely large enough to justify the cost of legal action. (HJ Resolution 111, voted for).
As a member of the House leadership, McMorris Rodgers helped engineer passage of the Republican tax-cut plan, from which big banks, financial companies and their executives stand to gain hundreds of billions of dollars, with Wells Fargo poised to be the leading corporate beneficiary. And in May 2018, she proudly voted for S. 2155, the biggest rollback of banking regulations since the financial crisis. The “Bank Lobbyist Act,” as Senator Elizabeth Warren dubbed it, loosened restraints on 25 of the country’s biggest banks (recipients of a combined $50 billion in bailout money during the 2008 financial crisis) and weakened protections against predatory or racially discriminatory lending, especially in rural areas of the country. Backers of this legislation tried to portray it as an effort to provide modest regulatory relief for small “community banks,” but its greatest benefits will go to regional bank chains with between $50 and $250 billion in assets, and as soon as it passed industry insiders freely acknowledged that it would spur increased bank consolidation by letting a $50 billion institution grow up to five times bigger without attracting any extra regulatory scrutiny.
All these votes occurred during the 115th Congress, which has done next to nothing to address the serious problems facing ordinary Americans. If you’re wondering how this same body could somehow manage to act item after item from Wall Street’s legislative wish list, the answer lies with Cathy McMorris Rodgers – with McMorris Rodgers and the others like her who have built their congressional lives around the pursuit of campaign cash from big banks, securities firms, payday lenders and other giant financial companies.
When it comes to the issues those companies care about, McMorris Rodgers has consistently ignored not only the interests but the will of the people she is sworn to represent. The great majority of Americans, across party lines, want to see tougher financial regulation and worry that Wall Street has too much influence over our economy and government. Yet in all the actions described here, Rep. McMorris Rodgers has not once called for stronger rather than weaker regulation of banks, lenders and other Wall Street entities.