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Payday Lenders Tracking Down 36% Rate Cap Petition Circulators in East River

On Friday, investigators began showing up on the doorsteps of individuals who circulated petitions for Initiated Measure 21, the 36% rate cap on payday loans. Two Rapid City circulators reported to me that Michael Napier, Rapid City-based bail bondsman for Dan Lederman’s Speedy Release, questioned their circulating activities on behalf of South Dakotans for Responsible Lending, the South Dakota group sponsoring the ballot question.

Michael Napier, working for payday lenders in Sioux Falls. Photo by Dave Brechtelsbauer, 2016.06.12.
Michael Napier, working for payday lenders in Sioux Falls. Photo by Dave Brechtelsbauer, 2016.06.12.

On Saturday, another Rapid City circulator reported that a different individual appeared on his doorstep with the same questions. On Sunday, readers in Brookings and Sioux Falls reported that Napier visited them with questions about their 36%-rate-cap petitioning. Napier showed up at Robert Klein’s house Sunday morning. By mid-afternoon he was in Sioux Falls visiting Cathy Brechtelsbauer and other circulators. Brechtelsbauer said that Napier wouldn’t give his last name (the photo makes pretty clear he’s the same guy as I reported Friday) but claimed that he “is doing us a favor in that he had already talked to about 60 people (18 to go) and he has not found any irregularities.”

Napier declined to specify for Brechtelsbauer who had hired him. The script used by Napier Friday says he is working for Give Us Credit South Dakota, the first ballot question committee founded to oppose the rate-cap effort and funded almost entirely by Georgia-based payday lending CEO Rod Aycox’s Select Management Resources.

Circulators, keep your information about the payday lenders’ intimidation tactics coming. And if accosted by Napier or other minions of the poverty industry, remember: you do have the right to remain silent to this non-judicial investigator, and anything you say can and will be used against you by the payday lenders in a court of law and maybe campaign advertisements. The simplest response circulators may offer Napier and his colleagues is, “Asked and answered”—you signed an oath on your petitions saying you witnessed every signature and complied with other petition rules. Everything Napier and the payday lenders’ other hired guns need to know is already written and sworn and thus far more valid than any hearsay evidence they may be gathering in their door-to-door intimidation campaign.


  1. 96Tears 2016-06-13 09:35

    Um, this looks like a real news story for any enterprising reporter in print and broadcast media. Of course, this is South Dakota where citizens who volunteered to carry petitions get harassed and threatened by the fat cats’ private dicks after they hired busloads of goons to gather petitions for a ballot measure intended to thwart the 36 percent cap.

    What you’re witnessing here is the full weight of South Dakota’s political protect class shoving aside all attempts to reform legalized loan sharking racket. If you’ve millions, the Republican Party of South Dakota has armies of goons to do your bidding.

  2. oldguy7850 2016-06-13 11:01

    CAH-What is Napier trying to achieve? Can’t these people tell him to go pound salt?

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-13 11:12

    96, I’m waiting for Angela Kennecke’s follow-up

    OldGuy, absolutely, “pound salt” is a perfectly acceptable response to anyone, civilian or police, who comes to your door uninvited and starts asking questions. I suspect the payday lenders are using people like Napier to (1) intimidate petition circulators to deter them from taking part in future petition drives, (2) distract proponents and voters, and (3) gather evidence for use in a specious lawsuit to challenge the petition in court.

  4. Donald Pay 2016-06-13 11:24

    A bill we brought in 1985 would have made this illegal. Time for another attempt to end this type of harassment?

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-13 14:21

    Donald, tell me more about that 1985 bill. What exactly would it have banned?

  6. Donald Pay 2016-06-13 17:18


    In 1985 we patterned our bill after SDCL 12-26-12, which spells out persecution, threats or intimidation of voters, and makes it a misdemeanor. We reconfigured the language to apply to circulators and signers of ballot question petitions, and to make it apply both during and after petitions had been circulated. I can’t remember who carried the bill for us. Linda Lea Viken and/or Keith Paisley would be my best guess. Our major concern was that our circulators were being threatened with criminal prosecution by the folks who came to their door unless they answered their questions. We had no problem with people checking our signatures, but when they started verbally accosting people outside of a legal proceeding, we thought they crossed the line to intimidation. In 1985, they started out by implying there was a criminal investigation.

    12-26-12. Persecution, threats, or intimidation to influence vote as misdemeanor–Obstruction of voter on way to polls. A person who directly or indirectly, intentionally, by force or violence, or by unlawful arrest, or by any abduction, duress, damage, harm, or loss, or by any forcible or fraudulent contrivance, or by threats to do or employ any of them, or by threats of bringing civil suit or criminal prosecution, withdrawal of customs or dealing in business or trade, or enforcing payment of debts, or by any kind of injury or threat of injury inflicted or to be inflicted on any voter or person to influence any voter, and attempted, done, or threatened, or caused to be attempted, done, or threatened by any person in his own behalf or in behalf of any other person or question voted upon or to be voted upon at any election, for the purpose of preventing, causing, or intimidating a voter to vote or refrain from voting for or against any person or question, or who does or causes to be done any of such things because of a voter having voted or refrained from voting on any such matter, or who intentionally and without lawful authority obstructs, hinders, or delays a voter on his way to any poll where an election is to be held, is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.

  7. Lanny V Stricherz 2016-06-13 18:02

    Although I must admit, that I don’t know any of the current legislators as well as I knew Keith Paisley, and I only knew him as a legislator and businessman, what I wouldn’t give to see another legislator with the integrity and overall legislative wherewithal of Mr Paisley.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-13 23:13

    Thanks, Donald, for that bill history. Let me think through the implications….

    “fraudulent contrivance”… so would the dishonest flyers the decoy petitioners circulated to deter people from signing the 36% petition have been a misdemeanor?

    “duress”… would that have busted me the day I stood next to decoy petitioners here by the Brown County Courthouse and called them liars to discourage people from stopping to sign their fake petition?

    “obstructs, hinders, or delays”… would that include the actions of the decoy blockers who would stand next to 36% petitioners and create a ruckus to scare possible signers away and make the circulator’s day miserable?

    “threats of bringing civil suit or criminal prosecution”… would that have busted me if I walked up to an 18% petitioner, whipped out my camera, and started recording, saying that I suspected violations of state law that could lead to prosecution?

  9. drey samuelson 2016-06-14 01:02

    Rod Aycox never fails to amaze, does he?

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-14 07:44

    Aberdeen circulator Pat Hale says he got a visit at home from someone asking questions about his work on the 36% petition on Saturday. No one has visited me at home to discuss my circulation of the 36% petition or any other.

  11. Donald Pay 2016-06-14 15:11

    Good questions, Cory. Back in my day, we were more civilized.

  12. Melissa Fountain 2016-06-14 16:39

    Yes, this is he. He came to my house on Sunday, June 12 at around 2:30 in the afternoon. The first thing he asked was whether my husband lived there. He sounded as if he was a plain-clothed policeman. I said yes and he said that he worked for the Pay Day Lenders. I believed him and started talking about how awful the people were. It was a very hot day. How funny it was that he was outside in the heat, sweating and I was inside in the cool house. I recognize him and his car from the photo.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-14 16:48

    Thanks for that update, Melissa! I’m sorry you guys were subjected to the payday lenders’ harassment as well. Let’s hope they realize they’ve got no actionable evidence, and that our people run a petition drive far differently from their unscrupulous mercenaries.

  14. Bob Klein 2016-06-15 21:22

    I apologize that I have not been here to perhaps add some detail to my visit with this man on Sunday morning.

    I was interrupted as I was packing our car in preparation for a trip for a funeral in Winner. Man said he was looking for Robert Klein. I agreed that that was me and asked him who he was and who he worked for. I don’t recall his specific answers, though one of them was that he was Mike Napier. But then he asked if I remembered the 36% petition. I asked him if he was working for the 36% people. He said he was. I told him he was lying, then told him that all the information on my petition was correct, and that’s all I was going to say. He left. I attempted to take a picture with my flip phone, (he said that would be fine, though I didn’t ask his permission) but when I looked later no picture was there. Also thought about recording it, but I’m not fluent with my hitech gadget. (Embarrassed to admit that, since I made my living in computer systems for some time)

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