Furlong: Petition Not Fake, Just “Advisory”

The mainstream media pick up quickly on the story I broke Sunday about the fake 18%-rate-cap petition being circulated at the Sioux Empire Fair. KSFY, KELO, and Jonathan Ellis provide some important details about the decoy petition that appears to be part of payday lenders’ dirty tricks to sabotage the legitimate petition drive to cap interest rates at 36%.

All three articles tie the fake petition drive to Lisa Furlong, the sponsor of the constitutional amendment currently undergoing review by the Attorney General but not yet approved for legal circulation by the Secretary of State. The fake circulators at the Sioux Empire Fair were unwilling to talk much to the media (there’s a danger sign: anyone circulating a petition should be thrilled to get on camera, talk to the media, and spread the word about his or her cause) and deferred comment to Furlong, who returned no calls (another red flag) but issued this e-mail statement:

First of all, the initiated measure to cap payday lending rates at 18% is just as real as other petitions being circulated and for anyone to suggest otherwise is offensive.

We have a dedicated group of supporters and volunteers that are anxious to get to work and felt that the fair presented a great opportunity to measure support for our effort.  The petitions currently being circulated are *advisory petitions*, meant to simply gauge support for our measure and to begin raising awareness for this cause.

We appreciate all the Attorney General’s office is doing to issue a summary statement for our measure in a timely manner and look forward to starting our effort to have it placed on the ballot next November [Lisa Furlong, e-mail statement, KELOLand.com, 2015.08.03].

Bogus decoy petition, offered by circulators of petition claiming to cap payday loans rates at 18%, Sioux Empire Fair, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 2015.08.03.
“Advisory” petition? That’s a lie. A sheet of paper with a bunch of signatures on one side and no legal language on the other is still a fake petition, masquerading as something else to confuse voters. Sioux Empire Fair, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 2015.08.03.

Now we have the cover story. Furlong isn’t breaking South Dakota Codified Laws 2-1-1.1 or other statutes pertaining to initiative petitions because her lackeys aren’t circulating an initiative petition; they are circulating an “advisory” petition. KELO notices that the fake circulators have added signs to their fair booth to advertise this cover story.

Permit me to continue “offending” Furlong: her petition is fake. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs agrees with me, telling KELO that there’s no such thing as an “advisory” petition in state statute.

The only thing “real” about an “advisory” petition is that her dupes have pieces of paper on which they are collecting signatures. But in the way South Dakotans understand petitions, those “advisory” petitions have no legal force. They don’t even contain the language of the measure voters think they are signing for, which leads to the distinct possibility of fraud. Consider, singers: when the reverse side of the sheet you sign is blank, what’s stopping those circulators from taking those sheets back to the office and xeroxing onto the blank side legal language about an entirely different proposal, or even a payday loan that you didn’t know you were signing up for?

Now that we know these fake circulators represent Lisa Furlong, we can tie them to the language of Furlong’s proposed constitutional amendment, which includes two important provisions that demonstrate the ill intent behind this fake petition:

  1. Furlong’s petition allows lenders to exceed the proposed 18% rate cap as long as they get borrowers to sign a contract specifying the higher rate, which renders the “18% rate cap” meaningless.
  2. Furlong’s petition creates a constitutional amendment that outlaws any statutory cap, meaning it would annul the legitimate proposal to cap interest rates for payday lenders at 36%

I reported those trick clauses on July 13. Only Ellis mentions Furlong’s rate-cap opt-out clause. None of the reports mention the politically weedy constitutional amendment–initiated law distinction.

Ellis also beats KELO and KSFY by pointing out that the legitimate petitioners, South Dakotans for Responsible Lending, have filed a complaint with Attorney General Marty Jackley contending that Furlong’s group, South Dakotans for Fair Lending, is “illegally circulating petitions to defraud voters.” Even if the sheets of paper themselves are not technically legal, the intent of the action, to create confusion and sabotage a legitimate petition drive, are an illegal attempt to defraud and disenfranchise voters.

Furlong’s fake petition poses a threat to all legitimate South Dakota petitioners. Furlong’s fake circulators are sowing distrust and hostility in the political marketplace. By circulating sheets that carry a signature grid formatted just like official ballot petitions, Furlong’s fake circulators are forcing voters who want their signature to count to be more suspicious of anyone circulating a petition and making it harder for honest petitioners to obtain the signatures they need to place legitimate laws and candidates on the ballot.

Whether or not Attorney General Jackley can find a statute under which to prosecute Furlong and her fakers, whether or not the Sioux Empire Fair management takes action to remove these disruptive fraudsters from their grounds, the media have an obligation to educate the public and protect the democratic process. Every South Dakota media outlet should publish this information:

The 18%-rate-cap petition sponsored by Lisa Furlong and South Dakotans for Fair Lending is a fake. It isn’t a real petition, and with its opt-out contract clause, it isn’t even promoting a real rate cap; if it were approved, it would abolish rate caps.

The 36%-rate-cap petition sponsored by Steve Hildebrand, Steve Hickey, and South Dakotans for Responsible Lending is real. The law this real petition proposes really caps payday lending rates at 36%. The petition says “36%” and has two sides. The people circulating that real petition won’t be afraid to tell you their names and give you information about the 36% rate cap. Your signature on the 36%-rate-cap petition will count.

Real petitions have: (1)
Real petitions have: (1) “INITIATIVE PETITION” at the top, (2) “WE, THE UNDERSIGNED qualified voters of the state of South Dakota, petition that the following proposed law be submitted to the voters of the state of South Dakota t the general election on November 8, 2016…,” (3) title, (4) Attorney General Explanation, (5) the text of the proposed law, (6) [not visible in this photo] instructions to signers, and (7) material on both sides! If you see this petition, sign it! If the petition someone hands you doesn’t look like this, do not sign.

27 Responses to Furlong: Petition Not Fake, Just “Advisory”

  1. Nick Nemec

    Does the State of South Dakota or the SoS have a copyright on the grid format used on all official petitions? Is use of the exact same grid on petitions not properly authorized constitute a copyright violation? I’m just spitballing here in an attempt to figure out a way authorities can shut these scammers down.

  2. Everybody should go sign their *advisory petition*. Donald Duck, Tinkerbell, Fred Flintstone, Loch Ness Monster, Harry Potter, etc. Sign away folks! Have fun with it.

  3. For the record, it’s illegal to sign a name other than your own on a real petition. It’s not illegal to sign a false name on a sheet of paper, and these are not petitions but merely sheets of paper. No risk of any prosecution here for Donald Duck and his cohorts.

  4. Good job, Cory! Always fighting the good fight! Where were the GOPers breaking this story and warning So Dakotans? At least Krebs is working with you and she should send out a news statement warning citizens of this fraudulent petition.

  5. Jenny, that GOP blog is going overtime posting press releases as always. They are in the mind numbing business, as evidenced by their lack of interest by commenters. Used to be they posted some thought provoking stuff, but that was years ago.

  6. Solemn in SF

    I stopped by the little booth they had set up yesterday and asked a few questions, the answers were misleading and evasive, but when I pressed, were reluctantly truthful. I had to take a LONG road to get to the truth and if I didn’t already know what was going on and what questions to ask, I would have had no idea what had just happened. Scary to think what they will do with the information on the sheets, keep your friends close, enemies closer they say… The general harvesting of sensitive information by misleading means should be illegal if its not.

    me – So whats the story on this petition?
    Lady – Its to cap interest rates on loans at 18% in SD
    me – Great idea! do you have the specific language I could read over quick?
    Lady – Well actually this is an ADVISORY petition so the wording isn’t finished yet.
    me – oh, I thought petitions on stuff like this needed to be approved by someone first?
    Lady – The amendment this petition is supporting is actually almost done being approved by the Secretary of state, hopefully by the end of the week!
    Me – So these petitions are for that?
    Lady – well this is an ADVISORY petition, its like if you wanted them to stop serving soda at the fair, you could start a petition, no one would need to approve that, its all part of the democratic process.
    me – ok, so will my signature be transferred to the other one too?
    Lady – Well, no
    me – so signing this petition is functionally useless
    Lady – no, it would show your support for the measure
    me – but that doesn’t mean anything in terms of anything in the real world and getting this on the ballot though right?
    Lady – well, yeah, come back and sign for the 18% cap as soon as its approved then!
    me – thanks.

  7. Excellent work, Solemn! You make a very good point: we can get the straight scoop from these folks, but only if we already know what’s going on and how the petition process works. Furlong’s people are hiding information from everyday voters. I don’t want to distract people from signing the real petition, but I would recommend that everyone in the know who has already signed the real 36% petition should then go talk to the 18% fakers, prick their consciences, and deter others from being sucked into this 18% sham.

  8. Interesting idea, Nick, but I don’t think the state can copyright forms designated in the state’s administrative rules for public use (see SDAR 5:02:08:00.03 for the signature grid, free, I think for all of us to use legally).

    Rohr, you’re right: since the 18% sheet is a fake petition, all bets are off. Signers can fake all they want. However, signing a real initiative or referendum petition with a fake name is a misdemeanor under SDCL 2-1-6.

    And yes, I’m rather disgusted that in the midst of a genuine attack on South Dakota’s petition process by Furlong’s fakers, an attack that threatens South Dakota petitioners and candidates of good faith from all parties, the GOP blogs thus far are silent on this issue. That silence is an abdication of their duty as watchdog journalists to protect the integrity of South Dakota’s political process.

  9. Douglas Wiken

    Have somebody there asking people to sign a blank check and ask them for their credit card data and PIN number and let them know that is the equivalent of signing a blank petition.

  10. lisa furlong & erin ageton, what’s yer deal?? are you schills duped into supplying your good names to sketchy operators bent on maintaining deceit in the face of public challenges to their questionable business models?

  11. Sketchy, sketchy, sketchy. This kind of deceit makes people afraid to sign any petition… and there’s your disenfranchisement, the threat to the ballot initiative, the people’s right to legislate, and our voting rights.

  12. As I review statute, I find SDCL 12-13-16:

    Publication of false or erroneous information on constitutional amendment or submitted question as misdemeanor. Any person knowingly printing, publishing, or delivering to any voter of this state a document containing any purported constitutional amendment, question, law, or measure to be submitted to the voters at any election, in which such constitutional amendment, question, law, or measure is misstated, erroneously printed, or by which false or misleading information is given to the voters, is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.

    Furlong’s circulators are delivering to voters a document that they say contains a purported constitutional amendment. The document does not appear to contain the text of that constitutional amendment, which would appear to be the most grave misstatement, the most misleading information that one could give to the voters. Does this statute provide grounds for arresting these fake petitioners?

  13. jackley wil again be forced to act, if he can figure some way it will benefit his party and his future.

    nice work, cory, as always. this red state has made itself an easy target

  14. “advisory” sounds alot like “bad back”.

    disclaimer: i have a bad back

  15. I see Wilma Flintstone and various cartoon characters signing this these decoy papers along with taking photos of the circulators.

  16. Leslie, if there is a political angle to choosing to prosecute or not, Jackley should jump on this opportunity. I haven’t heard anyone defend what the fake petitioners or the dirty tricksters who attacked Hildebrand’s coffeehouse are doing. Asking people to sign a fake petition makes pretty much everyone mad. Jackley could make huge news by walking up to those fake petitioners and demanding to see their documents, their IDs, their contracts with their employers, the works. He’d send those fake circulators scurrying, and people would probably carry Marty around the midway on their shoulders (or at least buy him a corndog). Finding a way to bust these fakers would not lose him a single vote and would gain him all sorts of positive law-and-order/defender-of-democracy press.

    However, choosing to prosecute for such reasons would be wrong. The reason to prosecute is that the actions question disenfranchise voters and violate the law.

  17. agreed. just that he prosecuted boz in order to take the public’s eye off the blurry EB5 ball and his failure. imo

  18. Deb Geelsdottir

    Leslie asked: “lisa furlong & erin ageton, what’s yer deal??”

    Probably $$$, don’t you think? Maybe this is the SD Republican response to income inequality! Hire people to help them cheat other people!

  19. Leslie, I continue to reject that assertion. I’d say Jackley prosecuted because the evidence was clear and public, thanks to this blog’s efforts.

    Deb, you’re right: dollars are the motive, the only motive, of the fake petitioners. The circulators are in it for their $20 an hour. The payday lenders are in it for their profits.

    Interestingly, I can’t figure out what Lisa Furlong’s stake in this affair is. I can’t find any connection between her and the payday lending industry. Hmm….

  20. Cory,

    Wouldn’t these fake petitioners & petitions damage the integrity of the petition and electoral process?

    btw! Stopped at Josiah’s this morning and signed the petition and the coffee and home made blueberry pop tart was excellent!

    Might have to go to the Sioux Empire fair tomorrow and visit with the fake petitioners

  21. I would hope Attorney General Jackley would be going after these fake petitioners with the same vigor as Bosworth & Walker. It’s a win win for everyone except the fraudsters.

  22. Thanks for signing, Lynn! I’d love to see your photos/videos from the fair if you go.

    Most certainly these fake petitioners are harming the integrity of the petition and electoral process and should be held accountable. I’d be curious to hear AG Jackley’s read of SDCL 12-13-16 cited above.

  23. Roger Cornelius

    If this bunch needs credibility for their advisory petition drive, they should have Dr. Annette Bosworth coordinate it.

  24. If it was Annette Bosworth circulating the “advisory petition” she would be in jail by now.

    You know that these payday lenders are going to have the strongest legal backing they can get to make sure they can skirt the law in every way possible while doing their best to screw over the petition process. I hope truth can overcome.

  25. MD, we can’t argue hypotheticals, but under which law do you think she or any circulator could be arrested?

    You do make a vital point about the payday lenders’ resources. They will continue to think of devious schemes that operate right at the edge of legality, daring the legitimate petitioning organization to challenge them, knowing that any court challenge will not be cut and dried but will require big expenditures (time, lawyer fees, etc.). And every dollar and minute Hildebrand and others spend challenging the fake petitioners is a dollar and minute not spent gathering signatures and promoting the real 36% rate cap.

  26. Roger, I’m surprised Chad Haber doesn’t go work that table for $20 an hour. Such deviousness is right up his alley… and since neither he nor Annette is drawing a paycheck, the family could use an income stream.

  27. according to google, lisa appears to have lost her husband, regrettably, in 2015, a lawyer in north sioux city who worked for BPI; she may be a golf digest writer. his brother is perhaps dave (margee) furlong, dakota dunes.