Where’s the Due Diligence, NYT?

The editorial page of the New York Times today attacked Senator Chris Dodd for his receipt of fundraising contributions from pay day lenders and, according to them, subsequently not acting to reform pay day lending laws to cap interest rates.  They write:

Forget what it looked like, this was a private fund-raiser by Mr. Johnson for his friend Mr. Dodd, not payday lenders wooing a senator whose committee was considering a bill that could seriously cramp their business.

That bill, sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, caps interest rates on consumer loans at 36 percent. That’s the reasonable limit that Congress placed on loans to members of the armed forces.

Mr. Dodd, who was recently praised after Congress passed a bill limiting abuses by credit-card companies, should follow the same crusading impulse to go after the egregious exploitation of payday loans. He should avoid even the slightest hint that he is cozying up to it.

Unfortunately, the Times has gone off more than half-cocked.  Dodd not only supports reforming pay day lending and has voted for it repeatedly in the past, but he’s a cosponsor of the Durbin legislation in question.

On May 13th, Dodd voted was one of only 33 senators to vote in favor of Bernie Saunders amendment to provide even stricter interest rate caps than the Durbin legislation.

On May 23rd, the Hartford Courant reported:

In a conference call with reporters Friday, Dodd said there are still two major issues that remain unfinished business: a cap on interest rates and limits on fees that merchants pay when a customer uses a credit card for a purchase.

You can go back in history and see many other votes and other statements that have shown Chris Dodd’s commitment to protecting worker Americans’ interests when it comes to usurious lending. But what is most stunning is that the Times ran an editorial criticizing Dodd for being so close to pay day lenders that he wouldn’t support legislation capping their interest rates when he is a cosponsor of the legislation in question.


I don’t know if the NY Times knew that Dodd had cosponsored this legislation when they chose to run their op-ed. I hope that it’s the case that they simply failed to do their basic fact checking before running it. Because if the Times knew that Dodd had cosponsored this legislation yesterday, it would mean that they ran an op-ed attacking a senator for giving undue influence to contributors and not sticking up for working Americans when they knew that he in fact was doing the exact opposite of what his contributors want and is standing up for working Americans.

It’s quite common elected officials to receive campaign contributions from corporations and industries that they’re trying to regulate. The act of them receiving this money, while not always savory, does not in itself constitute any form of obligation for the official to act on the corporation or industry’s behalf. In fact, it can be an opportunity for a public servant to show that they are beholden to no one other than the interests of the voting public.

That’s precisely what Chris Dodd has done when it comes to any number of financial players who have contributed to his campaigns over the years. From banks to credit card companies to the insurance industry and now, especially, pay day lenders, Dodd has held true to his Democratic values of protecting the interests of working Americans and not been swayed by campaign lucre.

What’s so unfortunate is that the New York Times is unwilling or incapable of identifying the clear difference  between the people who give Dodd money and the interests on whose behalf Dodd legislates. The two aren’t even in the same ballpark.

The simple fact is that the New York Times fundamentally missed the mark in their editorial attacking Chris Dodd. At best the attack comes from a failure to do their due diligence before publishing. At worst, the Times has maliciously attacked a man for doing precisely what they say he should be doing.


Tparty at My Left Nutmeg adds more:

As both Chair of the Banking Committee and a  vulnerable incumbent up for re-election, Dodd will continue to be a huge target for those looking to influence politics and/or policy on all sides, and sorting through competing arguments and knocking down spurious claims is apparently going to be a challenge for a traditional media still largely uninterested in doing that type of real work. But at the very least, Dodd deserves accurate reporting and praise when he does the right thing, even if that means re-writing an editorial before it goes to press – or printing a correction after it does.

I’d have to imagine Senator Dodd is pushing for a correction to the editorial. Who knows if they’ll get it? But unfortunately more people will read this editorial than will read the correction, even if it is forthcoming.

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