- - Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Chamber of Commerce has spent a whopping $1.6 million on television ads opposing Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Democrat, in his re-election bid and $1 million attacking Democrat Tim Kaine in the race for a Senate seat from Virginia against Republican George Allen, disclosures showed Thursday.

The conservative-leaning business lobby also spent nearly $1 million opposing Rep. Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin Democrat, in her bid for the Senate and more than half a million opposing Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, in her bid for re-election.

The Virginia ad says the “Kaine train” would “derail” Virginia’s economy with “big-government policies,” and notes his support for President Obama’s health care reform law.

The expenditure is unusual because it comes from a nonprofit group rather than a political committee, and it is by far the largest of its kind thus far in this election cycle.

HOUSE

Drought-relief legislation could come next week

A House Republican leader said Thursday that the House may take up legislation next week to help farmers and ranchers hit by the drought that has parched much of the nation.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said that in the final week before Congress leaves for a five-week summer recess the House may consider legislation related to “programs and disaster assistance under the expiring farm bill.”

Earlier, House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, told reporters, “I do believe that the House will address the livestock disaster program.”

The two leaders offered few details of the legislation, but it is expected to focus on the livestock industry. Many corn and soybean farmers are partially shielded from drought damage by crop insurance, but fewer livestock producers have insurance and the main federal disaster-relief program for them expired last year.

The drought is driving up the costs of feed, forcing some livestock farmers to reduce their stocks earlier than planned.

Neither lawmaker discussed how to pay for a revived livestock disaster-relief program.

Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, has estimated that it could cost $2.5 billion to institute a disaster-relief program and enact a short-term extension of the current five-year farm bill, which expires at the end of September.

The Senate last month passed a $500 billion, five-year farm bill and the House Agriculture Committee this month approved a similar bill. Neither Mr. Boehner nor Mr. Cantor mentioned the possibility of the full House considering that legislation before the August break.

JUSTICE

Banks pay out millions for improper conduct

Capital One N.A. and Capital One Bank (USA) N.A. agreed Thursday to pay $12 million to resolve a lawsuit by the Justice Department alleging that the companies violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), the Justice Department said.

The settlement covers a range of conduct that violated the protections guaranteed to service members by the SCRA, including wrongful foreclosures, improper repossessions of motor vehicles, wrongful court judgments, improper denials of the 6 percent interest rate the SCRA guarantees to service members on some credit card and car loans and insufficient 6 percent benefits granted on credit cards, car loans, and other types of accounts. The proposed consent order, which was filed simultaneously with the complaint, is one of the most comprehensive SCRA settlements ever obtained by a government agency or any private party under the SCRA.

“Today’s action makes clear that the Justice Department will fight for our service members, and use every available tool, resource and authority to hold accountable those who engage in discriminatory practices targeting those who serve,” said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. “Every day, our brave men and women in uniform make tremendous sacrifices to protect the American people from a range of global threats — and my colleagues and I are determined to ensure that they receive our strongest support here at home.”

The agreement requires Capital One to pay approximately $7 million in damages to service members for SCRA violations, including at least $125,000 in compensation, plus compensation for any lost equity (with interest) to each service member whose home was unlawfully foreclosed upon, and at least $10,000 in compensation, plus compensation for any lost equity (with interest) to each service member whose motor vehicle was unlawfully repossessed.

In addition, the agreement requires Capital One to provide a $5 million fund to compensate service members who did not receive the appropriate amount of SCRA benefits on their credit card accounts, motor vehicle finance loans and consumer loans. Any portion of the $5 million that remains after payments to service members are made will be donated by Capital One to one or more charitable organizations that assist service members.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports