How the payday loan industry laundered policy by paying academics to write papers that supported its positions


Originally published at:


One of the reasons that Big Tobacco remains an all-time champion of evil is that it taught other toxic industries to debase the value of peer-reviewed research by co-opting the occasional corrupt academic. The poisonous fruits of Bernays’, Lee’s and Hill’s labours on behalf of cancer-stick companies have placed the ability of humans to exist on this planet in jeopardy.


They need academic papers to legitimate their business? Don’t they have - you know - truckloads of cash?


We need a Long Green New Deal. Bring back usury laws.


And right on cue, measles outbreaks worldwide.


Postal Banking please


Used car salesmen are sleazy? I’m shocked; shocked I tell you.

Well, not that shocked.

Anyway, if Big Pharma/Food/Oil/etc. has taught us anything, it’s to follow the money when it comes to scientific studies.


Or possibly buying off desperate ones?


And here I was thinking that all academics were part of the Marxist cabal.


This sounds like the kind of academic misconduct that should pierce tenure and get you drummed out of the field.


Funny how those who make their billions exploiting desperate people know how to leverage other desperate people to write papers supporting policies that ensure future steady flows of desperate people. If all these corporations were playing a smart long game, they’d lobby to keep universities starved of public research grant money…oh wait…


That would be bribery. Too direct. Y’gotta slip the evil into `em in a more palatable form! So if those gosh-darn truth-bringers have peer reviewed papers, then we’ll just use our truckloads of cash to get our own peer reviewed paper that shows the truth we want!


Except that has been used against legitimate climate scientists.I had to explain to a friend who was going off on the “climate scientists getting paid to publish on climate change” talking point that the kind of grants they are receiving are around minimum wage, vs. the climate change deniers who fly from sound bite to sound bite in private planes and never actually do research.


The point isn’t that the scientists are paid–people gotta eat after all–it’s what kind of interests the money has and if there are conflicts.

Of course these guys will claim that universities and the government want to push a pro-climate change agenda because they hate Capitalism and America, but that is a much more difficult stance to defend than Oil Companies want to push an anti-climate change agenda because it threatens their entire business model.


My point is that it’s not just where the money is coming from, it’s also the scale and the use it’s put to. A $1M grant from the Sierra Club to a climate scientist gets gobbled up in equipment and staff, with very little to actually pay the researcher. A $1M “grant” to a climate denier who may have a degree but doesn’t actually do any research pretty much goes right into their pocket.

Another way of looking at it: many of the research scientists I work with would gladly eat Top Ramen and PB&J sandwiches and live in a tent if they get to work with really high-end equipment and travel to where they can do the best science. They shouldn’t have to, but they make that choice of how to spend their grant money all the time.


Lying to extract money from the most vulnerable people, people who are just trying to keep a roof over their heads and feed themselves, these are the type of liars who love regulation-free “financial freedom”.


Again, follow the money. If you follow a lot of money, it generally leads to corporate interests. If you follow a little money, it generally leads to scientific research.

Optional homework assignment: go watch the beginning of Jurassic Park again, and notice how Big Theme Park is paying for research.


The surprise in revelations like this is usually not that folks like Priestley can be bought, but how incredibly cheaply people like Priestley can be bought. $30k! An industry can buy its own academic paper to use as a weapon in legislation for the cost of a new Jeep Wrangler.

I mean, have some dignity, Jennifer! Hold out for at least a C-Class or something!


I think the precarious nature of non-tenured adjuncts plays into this system, as well as racism and sexism. If the only grants certain classes of people can get, or only path to publication, are the shady ones, what choice do we give people? People who are secure in the equity of their field and their economic standing don’t need to cheat on their research, but desperate people do desperate things. I also think people become so burned out by the injustice they start to think, why not?


In case it could ever bite me in the ass in the future, I should state that I am only one degree removed from some of these people (payday industry administration), but want nothing to do with them.
A small group from my high school (class of '85) made a good profit from a contract with the Atlanta Olympic games, and turned around and used that to get heavily involved in forming payday lending companies. I mean, Kansas is home to so many bad elements, the Kochs, Rent-A-Center, various criminals in the Trump administration, etc.

It’s so weird to know that so many of my classmates are complicit in shit like this (payday lending, Kochs, political rat-fucking), and I wonder how I avoided drinking the Kool-Aid.