More Democrats in the state Senate are calling for the ouster of Gov. Rick Perry's embattled chairman of the Texas Finance Commission, which oversees the agencies that regulate banking and lending in Texas.
The flap got started late last month when the chairman, William White, made controversial remarks in the El Paso Times about people who borrow money from his company. White is vice president of Cash America, a payday lender that makes high-interest loans — generally to low-income borrowers. He also happens to oversee the agency that is supposed to protect Texans from predatory lending practices.
In the interview, White blamed the borrowers — not the often staggering interest rates charged by his company — for getting bogged down in consumer debt.
The story prompted Sen. Wendy Davis, the Fort Worth Democrat who's running for governor, to call for White's ouster. Now three more Democrats in the Senate — Rodney Ellis, Sylvia Garcia and John Whitmire — are urging White to step down.
Citing figures from Texas Appleseed, which advocates for low-income Texans, the letter said in 2012 payday and auto title businesses had made $1.25 billion in fees from working families and 35,000 Texans had lost their cars in such transactions.
"By looking at these shocking numbers, it appears the payday loan industry prospered at the expense of Texas families and communities," the letter said. "By virtue of your current position as Chairman of the Finance Commission, you cannot turn a blind eye to these facts, regardless of your outside employment as vice president of a payday lender."
A call to the office of the governor was not immediately returned. A woman who answered the phone at the Texas Finance Commission said she would forward a message from The Texas Tribune to Cash America.
In November, Cash America — based in Fort Worth — agreed to pay $5 million in fines and refund $14 million to customers that the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said had been overcharged and subjected to improper debt collection practices. It was the new federal agency's first enforcement action against a payday lender.