Meet the Bernie-Endorsed Law Professor Trying to Unseat the DNC Chair
Was your decision to run motivated by a sense that she was favoring Hillary Clinton in her scheduling of the Democratic debates?
I was not happy with the fact that there were not many debates, and it certainly seemed to me that she was trying to put her finger on the scales to harm Bernie Sanders’ campaign. I recall in December the [NGP] VAN database was being denied to the Sanders campaign. It didn’t last long — just a couple of days — but it was one of those seminal moments. [Ed note: As CNN reported in December, the Sanders campaign was cut off after it “exploited a software error to improperly access confidential voter information collected by Hillary Clinton’s team.”] So, certainly that got my attention too, and certainly that did not endear me to her. I was already unhappy with her representation as a Congresswoman for the district.
In his email endorsing you, Bernie Sanders mentioned a number of issues you see eye-to-eye on — the Trans-Pacific Partnership, campaign-finance reform, free tuition at public colleges — but are those the most important issues to you? And are there areas where you disagree with him?
A number of folks have asked this question almost like, Are you trying to be opportunistic — to just jump on Bernie’s bandwagon? And I don’t see it that way at all. I’ve got a paper trail — articles, law review articles, book chapters, newspaper editorials — that go back literally to the early Eighties, and I’ve been whining about a lot of this stuff since then. I see myself as a New Deal Democrat in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy. That base of the party, where the heart and the soul of the party is, has been ignored by this corporate drift in the party, and it’s not surprising that Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and a lot of others agree on an awful lot of these issues, such as single-payer [health care].
I would say [one of] the real important issues for me is to regulate Wall Street. And it’s not an abstraction here in this district; Florida has a rampant payday loan industry, and this has been a big issue in the campaign. Wasserman Schultz has been pushing a Republican bill in the House that will prevent President Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from regulating payday loans for a two-year period. That Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created by the Dodd Frank Act, the Wall Street Reform Act of 2010, that I worked on not just as an adviser to Sanders but to other congressional staff.
These payday loans here in Florida, they basically prey on poor, vulnerable people, and they end up trapping them in a cycle of debt — we’re talking about 300 percent interest rates and higher. [Wasserman Schultz defends her position] saying Florida has a great payday lending law from when she was a state representative. It [was passed in] 2001. I mean, really? Seven years before the financial collapse, and it doesn’t have a cap on interest rates. It’s a terrible law. The Florida Consumer Alliance, La Raza, the NAACP — all kind of civil rights groups have condemned this law, and she is defending it. She says there is not an alternative; she says the only alternative there is is real loan sharks.