Housing Complex

Pawnbroker and Payday Lender Dumping Cash Into Council, Mayoral Races

Campaign finance reports due last night show that First Cash Financial Services, which is fighting legislation that would cap fees and interest rates on payday lenders check cashers and pawnbrokers in the District, has made some strategic investments in this year's political races: At least $8,000 to sitting councilmembers, all in the ten days after a June 2 hearing on Councilmember Muriel Bowser's proposed bill.

First Cash doled out $500 to Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, $1500 to Kwame Brown's race for chairman, $1,000 to Councilmember-at-large David Catania, and $2,000 to Council Chairman Vince Gray.

Rick Wessel, First Cash's CEO, also cut checks to Graham ($500) and Gray ($2,000) as well as Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas ($500).

Councilmembers Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh recieved none of First Cash's largesse, and neither did Mayor Adrian Fenty. I haven't managed to get all of the reports out of the Campaign Finance Office's jankety website, but will update when I can. Probably safe to assume that Bowser won't be getting any of First Cash's cash, though. And it wouldn't make sense for First Cash to fund any challengers–the bill will likely come to a vote before they have a chance to take office.

Roderic Woodson, First Cash's attorney from Holland and Knight–and a generous donor himself–told Housing Complex yesterday that his client would shut down its two existing pawnshops in the District if the Council passes Bowser's bill in its current form. Look forward to more on this issue in next week's column!

  • Sally

    Please do some basic research.

    Payday lending rates were capped several years ago by a Cheh-Barry bill (which Barry later flipped and opposed). There are no payday lending stores in DC anymore.

    The pending legislation would affect only pawnbrokers, and would likely put them all out of business as well.

  • Lydia DePillis

    Sally,

    Thanks for pointing this out. Bowser's committee also considered a bill, sponsored by Mary Cheh, that would lower the allowable fees for check cashing services:

    http://www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us/lims/legislation.aspx?LegNo=B18-0516&Description=%22FINANCIAL+PROTECTION+AMENDMENT+ACT+OF+2009%22.&ID=23317

    First Cash does have payday loan operations in other states, and a check cashing store in D.C., but you're right neither bill would affect interest rates on payday loans, and I've corrected the post.

    Best,

    Lydia

  • Sally

    Thanks for the correction.

    You should do an article on Bowser's pawnshop bill. It was done simply to suck up to the ANC that opposes a new pawnshop opening on Georgia Avenue becuase it will attract too many poor people to the area.

  • Merrill

    Try using spell-check.

  • Payday Lender

    Just wanted to point out that payday advance industry exists because it offers its customers a product that is more desirable than the alternatives. Eliminating payday lending or closing down the stores only forces consumers to use the other, more costly alternatives such as overdraft protection fees, late fees on credit cards and off-shore Internet lending.

  • Andre

    I agree with “Sally” a full-blown article on this issue would be of great benefit to the community. I am very interested in the way First Cash Financial, Inc. (parent company of First Cash Pawn and Famous Pawn) handles its business. Influence peddling is a serious matter and deserves media scrutiny.

    I do not agree with her statement that the opposition bill is a ploy to “suck up” to constituents living in the area. It’s more complicated than that. It was discovered accidentally that Famous Pawn planned to move into our neighborhood. Through our ANC and community associations we tried to contact the principals in an effort to establish a dialogue. The community was rebuffed in this effort. We then sought out DCRA to ask why we, the community wasn’t notified about the establishment of this business. We were told by DCRA that their function was purely “ministerial”. We disagreed and brought legal action to block the issuance of a pawnshop license to Famous Pawn for that location. A Superior Court judge agreed with our argument and granted a Temporary Restraining Order, which set the stage for the emergency bill passed by the Council and for the hearing June 2nd on the permanent bill. During this time, First Cash did (finally) initiate conversations with the community.
    The original plan, to move its Famous Pawn store from 3228 Georgia Ave., NW to 7301 Georgia Ave. NW have been changed. First Cash now plans to open another First Cash Pawn at this location, presumably hoping to capitalize on the “cache” of its Georgetown store of the same name. I live very close to the proposed store’s location and feel that the closeness to residential property precludes 7301 as a viable site for such a business. In closing I’d like to add that the community is not against pawnshops. We do not seek to have them all close. Rather, we feel that the community’s input as to whether this businesses be allowed in the neighborhood, should be taken into serious consideration by the DC government and its regulatory agencies, as such business would greatly affect the character of the neighborhood and should be only be allowed at the advantage and convenience of the community.

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