Subprime giant Ameriquest spent more than $20 million on political donations from 2002 to 2006 to successfully lobby against lending restrictions meant to protect borrowers, reports the Wall Street Journal. Though the company spent millions at the national level, its focus was local, where regulators were cracking down on predatory lending. Countrywide, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo also joined the quest for softer rules.
In Georgia, state legislators who received hefty political donations helped overturn a fair lending law. "Ameriquest was very, very engaged," says a state senator. Ameriquest founder Roland Arnall, a major contributor to President Bush, was named ambassador to the Netherlands last year. Also in 2006, Ameriquest paid $325 million to settle claims it cheated customers, and the company remains a target of hundreds of lawsuits. (Read more Ameriquest Mortgage stories.)