South Dakota’s payday lender stooges continue to stonewall the press. South Dakota Public Broadcasting tries to get hold of Bradley Thuringer, chair of Rod Aycox’s astroturf “Give Us Credit” committee commissioned to defeat the 36% payday loan rate cap proposed under Initiated Measure 21, and gets no response. Nor does SDPB pry comment from Thuringer’s well-connected GOP lawyer Sara Frankenstein, who is doing the leg work on the payday lenders’ new lawsuit to take away your chance to vote on IM 21. Just like fake-rate-cap Amendment U sponsor Lisa Furlong, Thuringer seems embarrassed to speak to the media about the slimy and shoddy work he’s doing for loan sharks.
I have heard back from a couple of the petition circulators named in Thuringer’s lawsuit against the state, and their comments, plus publicly available information, make clear that the payday lenders are blowing smoke with their specious challenge to the honest petition that put the 36% rate cap on the ballot.
Thuringer contends on behalf of the payday lenders that six IM21 petition circulators could not be found at the addresses they wrote on their circulator’s oaths and therefore the 2,658 signatures they collected should be thrown out.
Petition sponsor Rev. Steve Hickey and his wife Kristen Hickey collected 435 signatures and put down their Sioux Falls address before they left for Scotland for Pastor Steve’s graduate studies. The Hickeys maintain their South Dakota residency and voter registration status, and Pastor Hickey tells me they do intend to come back to South Dakota. The Hickeys clearly satisfied the residency requirement when they circulated the IM 21 petition in 2015, and they continue to satisfy the statutory definition of voting residency that Thuringer questions.
Petition sponsor Reynold Nesiba collected 1,984 signatures and put down his Sioux Falls address before he moved across town. Nesiba has been in the press this year as the triumphant candidate in the District 15 Senate Democratic primary. He clearly satisfied and continues to satisfy the residency requirement for petition circulators.
Barbara Basketfield collected 43 signatures for the 36% rate cap petition and put down her Rapid City address. Later in 2015, she moved south and down the ridge from Signal Drive to Elm Avenue. She’s on the road right now supporting Lakota youth on the Mitakupi Foundation’s Sacred Hoop Prayer Run, a 500-mile run around the Black Hills through South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana. Basketfield met the petition circulator petition requirement last year when she collected signatures, and she meets it today.
Jean Behr collected 161 signatures for the IM 21 petition and wrote down her Sioux Falls address. If Thuringer’s P.I. couldn’t find Jean Behr, he may not have tried hard enough. I Google around and find a Jean Behr who is South Dakota manager of advocacy and development for Planned Parenthood. Sounds like a legitimate circulator to me.
Thuringer bailbondsman P.I. Mike Napier attests in his affidavit in Thuringer’s lawsuit that one Lincoln Steel of Rapid City appears as a circulator of the IM 21 petition. Napier tracked Steel’s address to the School of Mines, asked around at the campus Human Resources office, and was told no one there had heard of “Lincoln Steel.” School of Mines has probably heard of Lincoln Stoel, Hardrocker chemical engineering student, engineering intern at POET, and South Dakota Bernie Sanders enthusiast. I’m just speculating, but there’s a high likelihood that Thuringer’s man misread an o as an e and based foul accusations of criminal activity thereupon. If Stoel is the circulator in question, Stoel quite likely satisfies the petition circulator residency requirements.
Not that I need to track down information and prove the petitioners’ innocence. Thuringer is making the affirmative claim of wrongdoing; Thuringer needs his dogs Napier and Frankenstein to hunt up the evidence to prove his claim. The documents they’ve filed fall far short of that burden, and the evidence I present on casual e-mailing and Web surfing from my comfy office they probably can’t satisfy that burden. The Thuringer complaint throw more spaghetti, but the circulator residency noodles won’t stick.
Rod Aycox, you’re paying these people for this shoddy work? Good grief—you might need us to regulate your industry for your own sake, so you can learn to spend wisely on a more limited budget.