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Letitia James Wins Democratic Runoff For New York City Public Advocate

Judge rules New York can regulate lenders with Native American ties

An emotional James thanked her supporters at her victory party at the Copacabana, crediting them with her success in the protracted, and increasingly negative , campaign. I ran for Public Advocate because, all of my life, I have seen New Yorkers preserver, she said, surrounded by current and former colleagues in the city council. I have seen the role government can play in helping uplift working people. As someone who comes from humble beginnings and who never forgets that fact, Ive experienced it myself. James spoke of the struggles she said face New Yorkers and promised to use the Public Advocates office to work on behalf of those in need. I will keep fighting for working men and women who need a champion in government, James said. In a concession statement, Squadron congratulated James on her victory. I know that Tish will be their great advocate for New Yorkers across the city, Squadron said. She ran a great campaign. James historic win was also a victory for the labor unions that rallied to her campaign during the three-week runoff sprint. She has long been a favorite of labor, having won her first election to the council in 2003 on the union-supported Working Families Party line . This is an incredible capstone to a thrilling primary season that proves New Yorkers are ready to tackle inequality and come together for a progressive future, said Bill Lipton, New York State Director of the Working Families Party, in a statement congratulating James on her victory. Tish James has been out there, fighting loudly and proudly for working people throughout this city, said Vincent Alvarez, the head of the New York Central Labor Council, after James speech. We made sure we communicated with all our members and we told them the importance of getting out there, Alvarez said. What it reaffirms is that if were talking about issues affecting working people, if were communicating with our members and we have effective get-out-the-vote and field campaigns, we can win and be the decisive votes in these elections. The victory was also a big win for womens rights organizations, many of whom supported City Council Speaker Christine Quinns unsuccessful bid for mayor . James campaign represented arguably the last chance of getting a woman elected citywide in 2013. “The power center of government should not be all white and all male,” said Sonia Ossorio, President of the National Organization for Women in New York City, in a statement.

The Otoe Missouria Tribe and Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians sued the state regulator in August after Lawsky demanded that 35 online companies cease making loans to New Yorkers. The state has a 16percent interest rate cap in place for consumer loans under $25,000. At least one of the online lenders had been charging more than 1,000percent in annual interest. Sullivan agreed that Lawsky has authority over loans made over the Internet to consumers residing in New York, essentially stripping the Native American groups of their immunity from state law. The states action is directed at activity that takes place entirely off tribal land, involving New York residents who never leave New York state, Sullivan wrote in the order. These consumers are not on a reservation when they apply for a loan, agree to the loan, spend loan proceeds, or repay those proceeds with interest. Lawskys office declined to comment on the ruling. The Native American groups plan to appeal the judges decision, according to their attorney, David Bernick. This ruling opens a clear and painful breach in the legal protection that has consistently been afforded to the tribes efforts to become self-sufficient and economically stable, he said. Advocates for tribal lenders say the federal court overreached in its decision and that only Congress has the authority to regulate Native American groups. Jennifer Weddles , co-chair of Greenberg Traurigs American Indian law practice, said tribal lenders have been swept up in state and federal efforts to clamp down on payday loans, which carry high interest rates and often feature onerous balloon payments. A majority of the lenders that were cited by Lawsky, she said, offer installment loans with less harmful terms and repayment structures. Weddles said most of these lenders have established consumer protections in place. If New York regulators have concerns about the products that tribes are offering, they should work with the tribes to come up with some framework that works for everyone, she said.

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