Payday lenders, who charge high fees and interest rates approaching a 500% for short-term loans, are pressuring their customers to call their Senators and oppose financial reform legislation that would regulate them for the first time.
BP's former chief executive, John Browne, used to brag about his company's relative lack of political involvement and said he purposely shied away from spending too much on lobbying and political donations, but all that has changed. Since Tony Hayward took over as CEO of BP in 2007, the company has greatly increased its spending on American politics.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is publicizing a set of state-level polls that they claim show that "voters overwhelmingly oppose the creation of a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency," a component of financial reform legislation set to be debated next week in the House of Representatives. The survey polled 500 voters each in Nebraska and Arkansas, and was performed by the polling firm Ayres McHenry & Associates. Previous polls done by Ayres McHenry for the Chamber have been deemed unreliable by the New York Times, and not up to their standards for publication.
Now that Congress has taken final action on its health care reform legislation, the reform debate has now shifted to, of all places, Denver.
The legislation that is now the law of the land was just the first step. Despite its size -- more than 2,000 pages -- the bill in many cases only lays out Congressional intent. In that sense, it is a framework for reform. The law requires that numerous new regulations be written to govern the way health insurers do business, a responsibility that Congress passed on not only to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services but also to one very influential non-governmental organization: the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). The bill mentions the NAIC -- an acronym most Americans probably only see once a year when they renew their cars' license plates -- at least 10 times, and it gives the organization some very important assignments.
As the year-long fight over health care reform draws to a close, corporations are once again pouring big money into influencing the debate. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has already spent $11 million just this month to try and get 27 Democrats who supported the health care bill last year to oppose it. Pharmaceutical companies have bought $12 million worth of advertising to try and defeat the measure.
As President Obama moves ahead with health care reform, interest groups on both sides of the issue are again ramping up their lobbying efforts. Robert Zirkelbach of America's Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry's top lobbying group, said his industry is making "a big effort" to counteract attacks from Obama and other Democrats, who have pointed to hefty premium increases to show why health care reform is needed.