BUSINESS
05/18/2010 12:27 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Brownback Defends Predatory Lenders In Misleading Letter To Pentagon

In his attempt to protect the right of predatory lenders to fleece America's troops and their families, Republican Senator Sam Brownback wrote a letter to a top Defense Department official, citing a consumer advocate in support of his position.

But in his zeal to protect auto dealers over members of the military, Brownback selectively quoted the advocate, Raj Date of the Cambridge Winter Center for Financial Institutions Policy, to give the impression that Date agreed with Brownback's contention that lending would dry up if auto dealers are not given free reign.

"CNN Money on May 13 reported that 'Raj Date... agreed that the additional [CFPA] regulation might cause some dealers to stop arranging loans," Brownback wrote in his Friday letter, referring to the proposed consumer financial protection unit in the Senate's financial reform bill that will attempt to protect borrowers from predatory lenders. Brownback is pushing an amendment to the bill exempting auto dealers from the unit's oversight. Consumer advocates and the Obama administration strongly oppose such a carve-out.

In a February letter to the Treasury Department, Undersecretary of Defense Clifford Stanley said that about three out of four military financial counselors reported that they had counseled service members on abusive auto loans.

Date, after getting wind of Brownback's letter, wrote the Pentagon on Monday clarifying his position, lest anyone believe he supported predatory lenders.

Referring to Brownback's selective use of quotes as "surely unintentional," Date wrote, "I am afraid that the Senator's excerpt from that article might leave you with a thoroughly misleading perspective on Cambridge Winter's research on auto finance."

Here's the full passage Date pointed Stanley to:

"Raj Date, executive director of the Cambridge Winter Center for Financial Institutions Policy, agreed that the additional regulation might cause some dealers to stop arranging loans. 'There will be some dealers who say 'If I have to play by an honest set [of] rules, then I can't be in this business anymore,'' Date said. 'I'm not going to shed any tears for these dealers.'"

"I hope that clarifies what otherwise could have been misconstrued," Date continued. "It is my strong opinion that only those auto dealers that cannot play by honest rules would exit the business."

A call to a Brownback spokesman seeking comment was not immediately returned.

READ Brownback's letter:

Brownback letter to Pentagon -

READ Date's letter:

Date letter to Pentagon -