The PJ Tatler

Wendy Davis Has More than a Mere 'Oops' on Payday Lending

Democrat Wendy Davis wants to be governor of Texas. Aside from her policy problems, which stem from the fact that she is among the farthest left legislators in the conservative state, Davis has a competence problem. The campaign staff she has hired to run her effort don’t know what they’re doing, and Davis doesn’t even seem to understand how the state government works.

Peggy Fikac reports on Davis’ latest “oops,” on payday lending.

The issue boiled over last week, when Davis called on the chairman of the commission that oversees the finance industry — who also happens to be vice president of payday lender Cash America — to resign after he suggested that consumers’ own bad spending decisions might prompt them to turn to such loans.

If William White doesn’t resign, Davis said that Gov. Rick Perry, who appointed him, should remove him. Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed noted that an appointee confirmed by the Senate “cannot simply be fired.”

Too bad, for purposes of the senator’s argument, that Davis voted to confirm White’s reappointment when it came before the Senate in 2011 — even though she had described him as “the classic fox in the henhouse,” as reported by the Texas Observer. Her vote was pointed out by Abbott’s camp.In addition, her campaign put out a news release Friday that miscalculated the amount donated to Abbott by the payday loan industry, initially giving a tally of $386,750 from four entities. As my colleague, Dave Rauf, reported after examining campaign finance records, the actual tally from those four was about $99,000. An updated figure from her campaign Friday, listing more entities giving additional money, still had mistakes, Rauf found. Her campaign later clarified that Abbott had raised at least $195,000 from the industry.

How many mistakes can one campaign make on one small-bore story?

First, is White even wrong to note that personal decisions play a role in why people end up needing payday loans? Here is what he said in an interview with the El Paso Times.

“People make decisions. There’s nobody out there that forces anybody to take any kind of loan. People are responsible for their decisions, just like in my life and in your life. When I make a wrong decision, I pay the consequences.”

If that comment is out of bounds, then the concept of personal responsibility is dead. That comment should fall well within the bounds of public discourse. It’s certainly not personally derogatory to anyone. It’s true as it relates to the law — no one is forcing payday or any other kind of loans on anyone else. People are, or ought to be, responsible for their own decisions, and those decisions have consequences. This is Sunday School stuff, hardly controversial. Calling on White to resign for saying what he said is just silly.

Not only does Davis call for his resignation over nothing, or for Perry to fire him, which the governor can’t even do, it turns out that she voted to confirm White. She had the opportunity under the Senate’s confirmation rules to single him out from the group vote is she had a serious problem with his nomination, but she didn’t do that. Now he has given a quote which ought not be controversial, and she just wants to make an issue of it to get some kind of a foothold in the election. It’s all transparent in its cynicism. Doubly so in its incompetence. Davis wants to be governor, yet she is calling on the current governor to do something that the state constitution doesn’t allow.

So Davis is already into clown territory. Then, her campaign fails to note her confirmation vote even to get it out of the way offer some rationale for it, while releasing bogus numbers to attack her opponent. All of this allows Abbott to parry her ineffective attack like swatting a fly. It also dents everything her campaign says going forward. They can’t read law, they don’t know how things work, they make bogus issues out of nothing, and they can’t do math. Other than that, they’re off and running. And Davis won’t fire any of them even though they have collaborated to make her look stupid.

File all this under “Still not even close to ready for prime time.”

But maybe she can correct all this by suing the newspaper for reporting on it.