Friday, September 19, 2008

Signatures from Arno to be Voluntarily Tossed by Payday Lenders

The headline is clear enough. The rest of it has me confused/chagrined...

Payday Lending Campaign Agrees to Toss Disputed Signatures
Consumer Groups Warn Issue 5 Still Expected to Make November Ballot

For Immediate Release: September 19, 2008

COLUMBUS -- The payday lending campaign finalized an agreement today to throw out all petitions circulated by a California company with an abysmal ethical track record, as part of a settlement with consumer groups working to keep Ohio's payday lending reform law in place.

The agreement ended the need for a public hearing to determine whether Issue 5, the payday lending referendum, should be kept off of the Nov. 4 ballot.

"This is a positive development for consumers and for fair elections, but it does not deal a fatal blow to what is emerging as one of the most dishonest and deceptive campaigns Ohio has endured in a very long time,'' said Bill Faith, executive director of the Ohio Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO). "We fully expect Issue 5 to be on the ballot.''

The settlement means that the lenders will be unable to include in their tally the 12,928 signatures collected by the California-based Arno Political Consultants that have already been submitted. It also means that the lending campaign cannot submit any signatures collected by Arno after the initial ones were filed on Labor Day.

The national payday lobby is financing the multi-million dollar campaign, which seeks to ask voters to undermine Ohio's new law that caps the annual interest on payday loans at 28 percent, down from the 391 percent allowed previously.

A YES vote on Issue 5 keeps the 28 percent rate cap in place. A NO vote allows lenders to keep charging 391 percent interest APR.

The campaign has been dominated by evidence that petition circulators falsely claimed that the referendum is designed to lower interest rates -- not raise them --; allegations that homeless people were paid to sign petitions, a practice banned under Ohio law; and charges that Arno did not file the proper disclosure forms which are required to guard against fraud.

Arno's shoddy track in other states shows why these forms are necessary to alert the public about which outside outfits have been brought in to influence Ohio's elections, said Faith, one of the leaders of the YES on Issue 5 effort.

According to "Abusing Direct Democracy,'' a 2007 report by the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, Arno is known for being "accused of deception and illegalities.''

Unrelated to the Arno matter, the county boards of elections in Montgomery, Hardin, Hancock and Allen counties are investigating potential election fraud on the payday lending referendum petitions.

12,928 signatures?!?!? The lenders turned in more than 420,000 signatures overall, which would indicate that Arno was responsible for approximately 3% of the signatures turned in. So, while this settlement is good news, it would also appear that more than 40% of the signatures turned in were neither valid, nor collected by Arno. It now would appear that A- The lenders put themselves in a bad situation (involving Arno in the process) for very little (actually as of today, no) payoff, and B- That bringing in another company is a little more understandable given that the original collection company (the Ohio Petition Company)was not performing nearly as well as they might have expected. I was impressed with the quality control methodology described on their website:
Step 4: Real-Time Validation Services - Our circulators can be deployed with handheld computers that connect to a proprietary voter database system. This system allows circulators to check petition signers’ voter registration status at the time of signing. This real-time, in-field validation will notify the circulator if the person signing is registered and/or providing a valid address. The system then alerts them to either accept the signature or ask the signer execute a change of address/voter registration form.

Step 5: Recapturing “Lost” Signatures – The Voter Services systems are designed to transform invalid signatures into valid by identifying provisional and non-registered voters. In turn, our Voter Services operation can send these individuals prepopulated change of address and voter registrations forms(and Vote By Mail/Early Voter applications) as well as assistance in filing these forms with local board of elections offices.
Several months ago I wrote about how this methodology could completely transform ballot access in Ohio. What we've got right now, however, could pretty much pass for any number of petition efforts in Ohio's "checkered history."

My take on this when the petition campaign began was that a petition drive needed three things to succeed, and could possibly get by with only two of them, but that one alone had never been enough. Those three things were money, time, and grassroots support. The Sick Days initiative (another OPC effort) had all three to some degree, and handily made the ballot before it was withdrawn. The lenders, on the other hand, only have money. They may very well make the ballot yet (in part because they have more time, as they can continue collecting signatures while waiting for the process of initial signature certification to be finished by the SOS, at which point a 10-day clock will start counting down).

All told, I'm happy that it seems that even as technology and expertise increase, it is extremely difficult to simply spend your way onto the ballot in Ohio. And as I've said before, I don't think that making the ballot will do the lenders much good. You want to talk about broad-based opposition...When was the last time Rod Parsley and I agreed on something?


Donnie said...

While it's a good thing that the payday lenders have finally acknowledged some wrongdoing, I think it is unfortunate that thousands upon thousands of signatures collected under false pretenses will remain and likely be certified. The payday lenders now have 10 more days to "spend their way" onto our ballot. Chances are their deceptive collection tactics will continue and more Ohio voters will be duped.

We can't let this happen! Voters need to beware!

If this makes the ballot, be sure to vote yes on issue 5!

Anonymous said...

*****VOTE NO ON ISSUE 5!*********
Donnie, Payday Lenders didnt admit wrong doing, they simply threw out the company they used to collect those 13 thousand signatures because of ITS wrong doing.
Voting yes, eliminates the payday industry allowing only a profit of one dollar 8 cents per loan. That 1.08 has to pay for all overhead expenses including the paper the contract is printed on and the teller that gave the loan. IT ISNT POSSIBLE.
VOTING NO Preserves financial options, your choices--rather pay 37$ to bounch a 10$ check? or 15$ to borrow $100??
****VOTE NO ON ISSUE 5!! ******

Anonymous said...


YesonIssue5 said...

Voting YES on Issue 5 will help protect consumers from payday lenders, who are really just predatory lenders at the end of the day. They are the only ones who benefit from their loans.

Time and time again the payday lenders have proven they will go to any lengths to protect their 391% interest rate, even duping people into signing petitions (which numerous people came forward about -

Payday lenders cannot get away with luring hardworking people with financial struggles into a cycle of debt. Should Ohio cap these guys' interest rate? Yes – so vote YES on Issue 5!

PensiveTara said...

For the "Opponent" You state
"Payday lenders cannot get away with luring hardworking people with financial struggles into a cycle of debt.."
However these hardworking people NEED financial options every now and then. This new cap ELIMINATES their ability to obtain a loan because lenders cannot survive making 1.08 per loan BEFORE overhead expenses. People dont need YOU telling them what choices they can and cannot make.
If you dont want DADDY GOVERNMENT telling you that you are NOT ALLOWED to loan--VOTE NO ON ISSUE 5.
If you want the FREEDOM to make your OWN CHOICES--VOTE NO ON ISSUE 5
If you prefer to pay 15 bucks to borrow a hundred vs. 37 bucks to Bounce a hundred dollar check...VOTE NO ON ISSUE 5!!!

Casey said...

Ummmmm YesonIssue5.... your statment is untrue "... who are really just predatory lenders at the end of the day. They are the only ones who benefit from their loans." Really??!! Hmmmm, I think can provide thousands of names that have benefited by the service we provide. Yes, THOUSANDS.

Have you asked anyone who's ever received a loan to pay for gas, food, medicine? I'm willing to bet 100%, that they are appreciative that we were there to help them out during a bind. Not sure who exactly is going to step in and provide this short term alternative... will you?

Casey said...

Citing the 391% APR is really inaccurate since payday loans are designed and intended to be 2 WEEK LOANS. Yes, I know it's required by law to state the annual interest rate on all contracts. But in this case when it relates to Payday Loans, it only causes immense confusion. People latch on to 391% instead of reviewing and understanding the WHOLE story.

It's $15 per $100 borrowed,so 15%. Quite reasonable actually. Much better than bouncing a check at $25-35 a pop and incurring a daily fee of $5-15 too. Or being late on a rent or mortgage payment. Or going without gas or food or utilities until the next paycheck.

I completely agree with this statement "....legislation like this stems from people with high ideals but NO idea about reality, or economics." The Ohio General Assembly is so FAR out of touch with the typical Ohioan's concerns, needs, issues, it's disturbing.

VOTE NO on Issue 5-- My $$, My CHOICE!!