The usury industry appears to be mobilizing more resources to fight the proposed ballot initiative to cap interest rates at 36% and box predatory payday lenders out of South Dakota.
On June 24, Bradley Thuringer of Rapid City filed a statement of organization with Secretary of State Shantel Krebs to create “Give Us Credit South Dakota,” a ballot question committee to “oppose a cap being place on interest charged by lenders in South Dakota.” The committee address is a box at the West 41st St. UPS Store in Sioux Falls, but the committee chair’s address and phone number match what the Googles associate with a Thuringer Consulting Internet marketing service in Rapid City. LinkedIn includes a profile for a Bradley Thuringer of Rapid City who has done IT/SEO for various Black Hills customers. If these dots connect, Give Us Credit SD may be the online propaganda arm of the payday lenders’ effort to keep their mitts in our mayo jars.
Thuringer joins Pierre lender-lobbyists Brett Koenecke and Doug Abraham in formally opposing the interest-rate cap. Koenecke and Abraham formed Committee for Regulated Lending in April.
Thuringer might have two ballot measures to oppose.
On June 25, Secretary Krebs received another statement of organization, from Lisa Furlong of North Sioux City, to form “South Dakotans for Fair Lending.” The only online pings I find on Lisa Furlong suggest she manages accounts for PC Connection in North Sioux City. Furlong’s committee is not formed in support of or opposition to the 36% interest rate cap initiative proposed by South Dakotans for Responsible Lending (ah, do you feel the confusion coming?). Furlong is supporting an as-yet unpublished, unannounced constitutional amendment “to place cap of 18% per annum on lending with option for consumer to opt out.”
Hmmm… so in a couple months, we could have two groups with similar names asking folks on the street, “Would you like to sign a petition to cap interest rates?” That could confuse voters, couldn’t it?
That confusion is exactly what payday lenders sowed in Missouri to fight an interest-rate-cap initiative in 2012:
A Republican lobbyist submitted what appears to have been a decoy initiative to the Missouri Secretary of State that, to the casual reader, closely resembled the original measure to cap loans at 36 percent. It proposed to cap loans at 14 percent, but stated that the limit would be void if the borrower signed a contract to pay a higher rate — in other words, it wouldn’t change anything. A second initiative submitted by the same lobbyist, Jewell Patek, would have made any measure to cap loan interest rates unlawful. Patek declined to comment.
MECO [Missourians for Equal Credit Opportunity] spent at least $800,000 pushing the rival initiatives with its own crew of signature gatherers, according to the group’s state filings. It was an effective tactic, said Gerth, of the St. Louis congregations group. People became confused about which was the “real” petition or assumed they had signed the 36 percent cap petition when they had not, he and others who worked on the effort said [Paul Kiel, “The Payday Playbook: How High Cost Lenders Fight to Stay Legal,” ProPublica, 2013.08.02].
Watch your six, Steve and Steve: the payday lenders may be coming up behind you with a decoy petition!