Two South Dakotans who circulated the petition for Initiated Measure 21, the real 36% rate cap on payday loans that we get to vote on in November, tell me a man came to their homes today to ask them questions from the following script:
The source of these questions, Give Us Credit South Dakota, was the first ballot question committee formed by the payday lending industry to fight the 36% rate cap. Led by Rapid City man Bradley Thuringer, this committee has received nearly every dollar of its funding from Rod Aycox of Select Management Resources, parent company of North American Title Loans, a big player in the payday lending industry. Thuringer reported (year-end and pre-primary) spending over $646,000 of Rod Aycox’s money as of May 27, 2016, on efforts to oppose IM 21. (That’s in addition to the over $1.778 million Rod Aycox gave to Lisa Furlong, year-end and pre-primary, to get his decoy measure, Amendment U, on the ballot to confuse voters and sabotage IM 21.)
Rod Aycox must be sending more money, because Bradley Thuringer appears to be sending out a worker to interrogate IM 21 petition circulators and dig for evidence that could be used in a court challenge to the petition that could remove IM 21 from the ballot. The Secretary of State already rejected the payday lenders’ first specious petition challenge; Thuringer appears to be using Aycox’s money to gather evidence for a specious court challenge. Such a challenge may not succeed in revoking the will of South Dakota voters and protecting the payday lenders from the wrath of the electorate, but it could distract the IM 21 ballot question committee from connecting with voters and drain their time and money in a messy court case.
So who’s knocking on circulator’s doors and trying to coax them into doing the payday lenders’ dirty work for them?
Both circulators with whom I spoke identified their interrogator as Rapid City resident Michael Napier.
Napier is a good Republican, taking time to post this shot of himself with Senator John Thune in early April between positive posts about Donald Trump.
What does Napier do when he’s not interrogating petition circulators and posing with Republicans? He works for a Republican in the poverty industry:
Napier is a bail bondsman for Speedy Release, which belongs to Dan Lederman, former Republican South Dakota legislator from 2009 until his resignation on March 30, 2015, shortly after IM 21 sponsors Steve Hickey and Steve Hildebrand gained some positive national press about their impending petition drive to cap payday lending rates. During his last Session in Pierre, Lederman co-sponsored 2015 Senate Bill 166, Senator Corey Brown’s proposal to double the number of signatures Hickey and Hildebrand would need to collect to place IM 21 on the ballot. (Popular outcry stifled SB 166.)
Bail bonds shops and payday lending stores enjoy a certain sinister symbiosis. Bail bondsmen and payday lenders prey on poor people in dire straits and often set up shop on the same blocks. Some bail bondsmen recommend payday loans and car title loans as financing options.
Another bail bondsman working for Dan Lederman is Pat Powers of Brookings. When he’s not pulling defendants out of the county jail and into unnecessary debt mandated by government, Powers writes absurdist critiques of Initiated Measure 21, the latest contending that the grassroots South Dakota effort to cap payday lending rates is really part of an out-of-state culture-warrior conspiracy to shut down payday lenders. Similar absurdity appeared in a fake newspaper circulated on behalf of District 19 Legislative candidates whom Powers strongly favored: that campaign flyer included an essay which dinged IM 21 for receiving less than a third of its money from out-of-state donors but which said nothing about the effort to defeat IM 21 being funded almost 100% by an out-of-state corporation.
Pat Powers is the only member of the media I can think of who has obtained a sit-down interview with Lisa Furlong, sponsor of Rod Aycox’s fake 18% rate cap. Powers fawned over Furlong and propagandized for her astroturf petition drive rather than challenging the blatant lies told by Furlong and her circulators.
Powers has worked for Lederman previously on propaganda efforts for Lederman’s Rushmore PAC.
Lisa Furlong used to live in Dakota Dunes before moving to an apartment up the road in the less swanky part of North Sioux City. Dan Lederman’s house in Dakota Dunes is less than a mile away from the Furlongs’ old place.
Dots, dots, dots… and a few more connections. Hmmm….
Michael Napier, Rapid City bail bondsman and Dan Lederman employee, is working for the payday lenders to undermine the real 36% rate cap. He will likely fail in his efforts, because, unlike the lying mercenaries Rod Aycox hired through Lisa Furlong to circulate the fake rate cap petition and disrupt the IM 21 petition drive, the folks who put the 36% rate cap on the ballot are real South Dakotans who know the rules and respect the petition process.