Missouri payday lenders enlist Jeff Roe in petition fight
The effort to curb Missouri’s payday loan industry is shaping up as a David-Goliath struggle.
The little guys are the church and community activists who are collecting signatures in an effort to ask Missouri voters to limit the amount of debt the state’s short-term lending businesses can pile on consumers. Let’s hope their slingshot is in good working order.
The payday lending industry is gearing up big-time to avoid seeing Missouri go the way of Arizona and Montana, where voters approved initiative ballots limiting the annual percentage rate of a short-term loan.
Last week it paid $86,000 to Axiom Strategies, the company owed by Kansas City campaign guru Jeff Roe, for duties such as strategic campaign oversight ($15,000); strategic communications ($16,000); regional operations management ($25,000); and Website design ($9,500).
Earlier this year, the payday loan industry founded a political action committee called Missourians for Equal Credit Opportunity. Records filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission show the committee was terminated last week, and a balance of $107,000 was transferred to a campaign committee of the same name.
The shift to active campaign mode would be in response to the Missouri Secretary of State’s office approving for circulation an initiative petition to cap the annual percentage rate on a short-term loan at 36 percent. Missouri’s ceiling currently is 1,950 percent, with the average annual percentage rate on payday loans last year at 444.61 percent. The state’s payday lending laws are the most permissive in the nation.
For the industry, the task at hand is to preferably prevent the reformers from gathering enough signatures and, if that fails, convince people not to vote for the stiffer regulations.
Curious about who’s funding Missourians for Equal Credit Opportunity, the campaign committee? Well, Missourians for Equal Credit Opportunity, the PAC, of course. And good luck finding out anything more. The only name in public records is James C. Thomas III, a lawyer affiliated with Roe. He’s the group’s treasurer.
(And go here for Part II of a look at the payday loan battle.)