Payday Lender Spends $51.70 per Signature on Fake 18% Rate Cap Petition

In my speech to the Brown County Democratic Forum yesterday, I tried to estimate how much predatory lender Rod Aycox spent per signature to get his fake 18% rate cap on the 2016 ballot. When Ken Santema posts the video, you’ll see I was way off—never try to keep track of decimal points while extemporizing!

Back at the computer, I have the time to check the campaign finance reports and calculate the actual spending per signature on the ten ballot questions submitted. In the chart below, I include reported in-kind expenses. Each amount spent is hyperlinked to the committee’s year-end campaign finance report; since Amendments S and U listed expenses from two committees, I link their second reports to their issue name.

Measure Issue Submitted signatures (sponsors’ count) Valid signatures (SOS calc) amount spent by committee(s) cost per submitted signature cost per valid signature
19 incumbent protection plan 16,715 14,179 $6,486.09 $0.39 $0.46
20 youth minimum wage 20,077 17,077 $6,685.41 $0.33 $0.39
S Glodt on crime victims 52,817 34,431 $479,781.12 $9.08 $13.93
T Stop Gerrymandering 40,400 30,335 $149,250.00 $3.69 $4.92
21 36% rate cap 20,800 17,222 $31,675.57 $1.52 $1.84
U 18% decoy 60,028 42,195 $2,181,449.15 $36.34 $51.70
22 Anti-Corruption 25,216 18,122 $261,050.23 $10.35 $14.41
V Non-Partisan Elections 39,182 29,924 $205,684.95 $5.25 $6.87
23 Fair Share union dues 20,000 14,861 $158,400.00 $7.92 $10.66
failed Medical marijuana 16,631 9,019 $17,277.50 $1.04 $1.92
Total: 311,866 227,365 $3,497,740.02 $11.22 $15.38

Overall, ballot questions committees spent $3.5 million to collect almost 312,000 signatures, not quite 73% of which the Secretary of State calculates are valid.

The most efficient petition drives of 2015 were the referendum petition drives against the incumbent protection plan and David Novstrup’s youth minimum wage. The Democrats and I stopped those bad laws and put them on the ballot at a cost of 46 cents and 39 cents per valid signature, respectively. The next most efficient petition drive was the Hildebrand/Hickey/Nesiba push for the real 36% payday loan rate cap: they spent $1.84 per valid signature.

Four petition drives spent more than $10 per valid signature. The champ chump is Rod Aycox’s Select Management Resources, parent corporation of usury shop North American Title Loans, which spent $51.70 for each valid signature on its fake 18% rate cap petition.

Compare those rate cap measures: one big payday lending company has pent 28 times what South Dakota’s own grassroots organizers have spent in this fight so far. That ratio is only likely to get worse, as Rod Aycox and friends will grow all the more desperate to protect their exploitative business model. Lean into that wind, South Dakotans, and don’t Big Money fool you.

8 Responses to Payday Lender Spends $51.70 per Signature on Fake 18% Rate Cap Petition

  1. What is even more disturbing is that the one and only reason the predators are willing to dump so much cash into this issue is because they know if they can keep operating in the state they will recoup their investment many times over.

    In short – every dollar they spend trying to secure votes is a dollar coming out of the pockets of a South Dakota citizen who is already down on his or her luck.

    Reverse Robin Rood Syndrome anyone?

  2. Bob Newland

    The Payday thieves are also worried that SoDak might start an annoying trend.

  3. mike from iowa

    Personally speaking,wingnut voters are gullible to the extreme. Just say liberals are against someone making an honest living and you will get all the affirmative votes you need. Dang liberals.

  4. Lanny V Stricherz

    Bob Newland, the annoying trend could have been avoided altogether had our federal government done their job. Ever wonder where the 36% figure comes from? It is the one that the government set on payday lenders around military bases, because the military found that the payday lenders were hosing the folks who were protecting their right to do that. In other words it was not okay to screw those in the military and their families, but it is okay to do that to anyone else who is down on their luck, such as what they did to South Dakota Peace and Justice Director, Kristi McGlaughlin and her husband.

  5. Donald Pay

    Here’s an interesting thought: would it be constitutional to place a cost per valid signature limit on signature gathering similar to donation limits for candidate campaigns? I don’t believe that way of regulating paid signature gathering has been attempted or litigated. Thus, for example, you could have a limit on paid signature gathering that would be something like $3.00 or $5.00 per valid signature. That might be a way of limiting the most egregious attempts at buying ballot access through shoddy signature mills that are more likely to produce fraud, while meeting the “money is free speech” holdings of the US Supreme Court.

  6. Interesting suggestion, Donald! Current statute does not cap contributions to ballot question committees; neither would IM 22, Rick Weiland’s Anti-Corruption Act. I don’t think we could impose a cap based on my calculations above, since a ballot question committee wouldn’t know how much it has spent per signature until the final count. We could try a cap on total spending based on number of signatures needed. Suppose we took the median figure above for cost per signature collected, $4.47. Multiply that by the signature threshold and then add 30% for cushion signatures, and we get $80,600 for initiated and referred laws and $161,200 for initiated constitutional amendments. I don’t know if those caps would pass constitutional muster (though I like the compelling state interest in fighting fraud that you suggest), but would they solve the practical problem of big money influence?

  7. The next SD ballot iniitiative ought be a South Dakota version of this measure gathering signatures out west:

  8. John—ha! Our legislators would have to wear NASCAR racing suits plastered with corporate labels. Maybe we could make them put sponsor decals on their cars during Session as well.