Emmett Carson, CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, says it is “hard to understand” why the San Jose City Council chose to delay action on accepting a $50,000 grant to look into anti-predatory lending policies, what with so many people falling deeper into debt. He should ask Manny Diaz, a former city councilmember and state assemblymember who is now a registered lobbyist for Community Financial Services Association of America, a trade group that represents the payday loan industry.
San Jose has more than 40 payday lending offices. Some charge annualized interest rates for short-term loans that can exceed 400 percent, and most are located in low-income communities. Diaz himself represented such a community, east San Jose, until 2000, when, following a racially tinged, last-minute political hit piece, he defeated then–U.S. Assistant D.A. Tony West (now the Assistant U.S. Attorney General in charge of the Civil Division) and moved to Sacramento.
In January, Diaz met with eight of the 10 councilmembers about payday lending, and apparently it was not to stick up for his constituents who were getting shook down when they couldn’t come up with the vig. According to a lobbyist report, Diaz was in contact with councilmembers and their staffers, as well as staff members for Mayor Chuck Reed and City Manager Debra Figone, no less than 31 times between Jan. 1 and March 31.
Councilmembers Nancy Pyle, Xavier Campos, Donald Rocha and Ash Kalra each met with Diaz and at least one payday lending official, according to the councilmembers’ calendars, while Campos and Rocha both toured a payday lending office with Diaz. Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen was supposed to take a tour but cancelled.
Pierluigi Oliverio was the only councilmember not to get any attention from Diaz, while Sam Liccardo was in contact with Diaz just once.