The weakening of the Senate proposal on financial reform unveiled this week, after lobbying from the pay-day lending industry, should come as little surprise. In recent years, the industry has built a sophisticated Washington lobbying and public relations operation, which it has used to promote its interests, savage its critics, and shape the public debate.
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The $42-billion-a-year pay-day lending industry offers short-term loans often designed to tide customers over until their next pay-check. But the loans, which can carry interest rates of as much as 400 percent on an annualized basis, lead many working-class borrowers to end up digging themselves deeper into debt. As a result, the pay-day lenders have become a prime target of consumer advocates and their allies on Congress, who accuse the industry of preying on struggling Americans, and have in recent years sought ways to rein it in.