A couple weeks ago, Erin Ageton, VP of title-lender Select Management Resources, sued to delay Steve Hildebrand’s and Steve Hickey’s proposed ballot initiative to cap interest rates at 36%. Last week, Judge Kathleen Trandahl threw out Ageton’s flimsy arguments.
This week, Ageton’s boss, Rod Aycox, flew into Sioux Falls from Atlanta and demanded a meeting with Hildebrand. After showing up unannounced and lying to get Hildebrand’s cell phone number, Aycox told Hildebrand that he donates big money to gay-rights organizations. The implication, of course, is that Hildebrand, who himself is gay, will hurt the cause of gay rights if he promotes a rate cap that could hurt Aycox’s bottom line.
Aycox’s claim of support for gay rights is hard to defend. Through his Rod & Leslie Aycox Foundation, Aycox gave $2,500 in 2011, $12,500 in 2012, and $1,000 in 2013 to the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, which advocates for “traditional family values,” including the idea that “Marriage is intended to be a permanent relationship between one man and one woman and is a foundation for healthy and stable families.” TCCRI argues that marriage is ultimately for procreation and that same-sex partners cannot rear children as healthily as traditional couples. Aycox’s foundation gave $22,500 in 2012 and $30,000 in 2013 to Virginia-based Life More Abundant Ministries, whose Bishop Darryl F. Husband, Sr., said in 2012 that President Barack Obama’s support for LGBT marriage equality “will destroy the foundation of not only the African American community, but the nation as a whole.”
Come again, Rod—how does supporting TCCRI and Bishop Husband promote gay rights?
When I review the 112 records OpenSecrets.org displays for political contributions since 1996 to individuals and PACs by Rod Aycox of Alpharetta, Georgia, I find $354,200 given to Republicans and Republican-leaning groups and $176,200 given to Democrats and Democratic-leaning groups. If we agree that Dems fight better for gay rights than the GOP, then Aycox is trumping every dollar he spends that might help the LGBT community with two dollars spent on the party that keeps fighting to marginalize gays.
Aycox has gotten worse on that partisan count in the last four years. Of $319,200 listed on OpenSecrets.org, $15,300—4.8%—has gone to three Democratic candidates. In 2012, Aycox poured $200,000 into the pro-Mitt Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future. Those donations came after Aycox violated the law by “inadvertently” giving Restore Our Future $100,000 through his 501(c)3 non-profit foundation. Romney did not present himself as a gay-rights advocate in 2012; as Bishop Husband noted with apocalyptic woe, Barack Obama did.
Aycox did announce in the wake of the Charleston murders last week that he is working with Perennial Strategy Group, a regular recipient of his political donations, to donate a million dollars to groups promoting racial tolerance. And his foundation’s 990 forms show thousands of dollars in contributions to other organizations engaged in decent projects.
Aycox’s support for gay rights is questionable. His funding of other good causes is admirable. Perhaps Aycox is following the T. Denny Sanford philanthropy model of using money made in usury to repay society and buy redemption. But any good Aycox’s money does now does not change the fact that he is taking that money by preying on the poor, the desperate, and the ill-informed.
Aycox’s empty threat to defund gay rights groups is not much different from payday lender Chuck Brennan’s threat not to throw a big kegger for Sioux Falls if we impose sensible lending regulations. Capping interest rates may cut the petty cash Aycox has available for political lobbying and larkish flights from Atlanta to Sioux Falls, but the Hildebrand-Hickey initiative will protect South Dakotans from usury.
Related Reading: Preyday Lenders, a website dedicated to the kingpins of usury in America, further details camera-shy Rod Aycox’s political and business activities.