Politics & Policy

On Lobbyists: I Know You Are, Mary Jo, but What Am I?

Mary Jo Kilroy in OH-15 is fond of tarring her opponent Steve Stivers as a lobbyist who is “slick” and has so many connections to the Washington-Wall Street machine that only a fool would let him get close to the levers of power again. The accusations aren’t sticking, largely because Stivers has a very short rap sheet as a lobbyist, in contrast with Kilroy’s long rap sheet as a supporter of extremely unpopular policies.

And to make matters worse for Kilroy, she just became the tool of genuinely slick Washington manipulators. Today’s Columbus Dispatch reports:

Paid-off medical debt could not harm a consumer’s credit rating under a bill approved 336-82 yesterday by the U.S. House.

The measure, created by Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, D-Columbus, prohibits credit bureaus from using paid-off or settled medical debt to help determine credit scores. The bill would require that a creditor or credit-rating bureau expunge medical debt from a consumer’s record within 30 days of the debt being paid off or settled.

“In this day and age, credit scores are critical to an individual’s ability to buy a house, car, or even attain gainful employment,” Kilroy said after the vote. “My bill would ensure fairness by guaranteeing Ohioans and the millions of other Americans affected by medical debt that their future financial transactions will not be adversely affected years after they’ve settled what they owed.”

Sounds philanthropic, right? Well, yes, until you actually look at who stands to benefit. Look at this article from USA Today:

In June 2008, Dallas-area mortgage banker Rodney Anderson ran into an obstacle: An older couple who were longtime clients were having trouble getting a loan for what would be their final big purchase, a retirement home. The problem: a $150 medical bill that lowered their credit score by 120 points because it had gone into collection before it was paid.

Anderson had seen cases like this before, but now he decided to act. He began tracking the numbers. He collected consumers’ stories on his website. He buttonholed anyone who would listen, arguing that the federal law requiring paid medical collections to remain on credit records for seven years is unfair to consumers perplexed by the error-prone process of medical billing.

Then, Anderson tried a tactic typically deployed only by savvy political insiders: He hired a federal lobbyist. Two years and $400,000 of his own money later, a bill that would erase medical collections from credit reports within 30 days of payment has 101 sponsors in the House. A similar bill that would remove the debt after 45 days recently was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.

That’s right — the supposedly philanthropic bill that Kilroy introduced is the brain child of a lobbyist for one of the largest mortgage bankers in the country. And this after the subprime crisis. Yeah.

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