Debt collectors gave $2,000 to Kyrsten Sinema after she gave a $15 minimum wage the thumbs down
May 7, 2021
Representatives of debt collectors rewarded an Arizona Senator after her infamous minimum wage “no” vote
Kyrsten Sinema earned herself the ire of working class people around the country on March 5, when the Arizona Democrat gave an exuberant thumbs down to legislation that would have increased the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, from its current hourly rate of $7.25.
Sinema's vote, and the bubbly manner in which she delivered a thumbs down while casting it, inspired angry responses on social media, coverage of the senator's enthusiasm, and a widely-shared meme of Sinema depicted as an anime-style cartoon giving a thumbs down while wearing a mask that says “Fuck the Poor.”
But not everyone was upset with Sinema's vote. On March 8, the Monday after the vote, which took place on a Friday afternoon, the lawmaker was given the thumbs up by more than a dozen corporate political action committees (PACs), according to recently released campaign finance disclosures. The entities donated almost $20,000 to her next re-election campaign, which isn't scheduled to take place until 2024.
Those who expressed their approval of Sinema included the political action committees of firms geared toward serving the rich: Wall Street investment bank Morgan Stanley gave Sinema $2,000 while Canadian corporate jet manufacturer Bombardier gave the lawmaker $1,000. The political action committees of two different trade associations representing debt collectors also each gave Sinema $1,000 on March 8. PAC donations to individual candidates are capped at $2,900 for the 2021-2022 election cycle under current federal rules.
One of the debt collector PACs represents the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals, which describes itself as the voice of “third-party collection agencies, law firms, asset buying companies, creditors and vendor affiliates.” The other is the PAC of the Commercial Law League, which describes itself as “a not-for-profit association of creditors’ rights attorneys, bankruptcy attorneys, commercial collection agencies, and legal network personnel.”
Other PACs of trade associations representing financial sector professionals also gave money to Sinema on March 8, including those of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisers, the Manufactured Housing Institute, and the Real Estate Round Table, which each gave Sinema $1,000.
Other corporate donations to Sinema on March 8 came from a PAC representing the MWW Group, a public relations firm, which gave Sinema $1,500. The PAC representing car manufacturer Toyota gave Sinema $500. Cozen O'Connor, a corporate law firm, and a healthcare company called Tenet Healthcare each gave the senator $2,500.
Other for-profit healthcare entities also gave Sinema money on March 8, both of which are based in Illinois. The PAC for a physical therapy provider called Athetico Holdings and the PAC for an entity representing medical schools called Excellence in Healthcare Education each gave Sinema $1,000. Excellence in Healthcare Education has given almost exclusively to Republican politicians in recent years.
Sinema did receive some money on March 8 from a PAC representing a labor union. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants's PAC gave the lawmaker $1,000.
All in all, PAC donations to Sinema on March 8 totaled $20,500. They all came from entities outside of her home state of Arizona except one: a PAC representing Universal Technical Institute, a for-profit college based in Phoenix, gave Sinema $1,000.
CORPORATE SCAM WATCH: Wall Street-owned home security company dinged $20 million for “white paging” scheme
A company owned by the $619-billion investment firm Blackstone agreed to pay $20 million to settle fraud allegations levied by federal law enforcement agencies. The firm, the home security company Vivint, said it will pay $5 million to victims of its alleged scheming, and $15 million in civil penalties, according to terms of the settlement announced last Thursday by the Federal Trade Commission.
The practice at the heart of the settlement revolved around door-to-door Vivint sales representatives using unwitting third parties to sell security systems to customers who lacked the credit to finance their purchases. The scheme, called “white paging,” allegedly involved sales reps using telephone directories to find someone with the same name, or a similar name as the customer, in order to pass credit checks that the customer had already failed.
Vivint reps then allegedly re-run credit checks using the third party's name, listing their victim's address as a previous address of the customer. “The sales representative would thereby trick Vivint’s system into approving a new account for the unqualified customer by unlawfully using the credit history of the unrelated individual,” settlement filings noted.
Vivint representatives also used other methods to fudge the company's credit check system, according to the settlement. They would reportedly ask customers who didn't pass credit score tests to give the name of someone else who might qualify, such as a relative. “The rep would then obtain a credit report for that individual without permission, add their address into 'previous address' and thereby qualify the primary account holder,” the FTC and the Justice Department said. “Similarly to white paging, Vivint would then extend credit to the unqualified customer, based on the innocent third party’s credit score.”
When some of these customers defaulted on payments, the third parties who never agreed to co-sign for financing would be harassed by debt collectors and their credit scores would take a hit.
To make matters worse, Vivint reportedly knew that these fraudulent practices were going on long before the company put its foot down. Settlement filings said that Vivint managers were made aware of the scamming in 2016, and fired some sales reps in 2017 for white paging and using unauthorized co-signers. But because because one the sales teams at the heart of the conning generated “millions of dolars in revenue for Vivint,” the firm allowed implicated employees to work for Vivint's sister company, “and permitted some of them to return to Vivint the following sales season,” the DOJ and FTC said. The firm agreed to implement stronger internal controls against fraud as part of the settlement.
If Vivint's unauthorized co-signing is reminiscent of Wells Fargo representatives signing up customers for millions of accounts that they never wanted, there's another similarity, beyond the involvement of a major player in the financial sector. Like Wells Fargo, Vivint employed incentives that encouraged aggressive salesmanship; in the security firm's case, by compensating summer hires “entirely through commissions for the sales of new systems,” in the words of the settlement.
“As with any commission-based occupation, this approach to payment incentivized the sales representatives to work hard and, occasionally, to cut corners,” the DOJ and FTC said. “In Vivint’s case, the compensation structure combined with the lack of effective oversight also incentivized the representatives to violate the law.”
Blackstone bought Vivint in 2012 for $2 billion. The home security company currently has more than 1.5 million customers in the North America.
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