Friday, September 26, 2008


Everybody seems to want to talk about the "wolves" ad by the OHRCC, that takes on John Carney and Nancy Garland for being a lawyer and a lobbyist, respectively. I haven't addressed it for a couple of reasons. First of all, if you're the sort of person who listens to reason, these grainy black and white ads just make you roll your eyes. If you're not that type, I have no idea how to talk to you (although the Dispatch does pretty well with this one).

It goes a little further, though, with this line of attack, and with this line of attack against this candidate in particular. First of all, Steve Stivers is a career lobbyist looking to further his career in politics. I know the Ohio GOP sees nothing wrong with making two diametrically opposed arguments simultaneously, but for my own dignity I feel like I have to explain why there is a difference. In a nutshell, it's this: What happens to America when the Banking Industry gets extra access to lawmakers? What happens to America when Physical Therapists get extra access to lawmakers?

Avid readers will remember that this didn't stop me from making strong comments about Nancy Garland's history as a lobbyist during the primary, so I'm not the ideal person to be expressing outrage. A couple of things have turned me around on this. First, the primary was somewhat contentious, and I got caught up in that. Second, unlike a guy like Steve Stivers who has done everything he is capable of doing to make his career as a lobbyist go away, Nancy Garland is proud of the work she did and the contributions she made to legislation like the Patient's Bill of Rights. She has made a credible argument that her experience with the legislative process will give her a head start as a legislator, and I've come to buy it.

The GOP is in serious danger of losing a majority in the Ohio House, in part because these two races are likely to go to the Dems. I'd expect more mud to get slung at both sides from third party groups before this is over (but if you've seen the DLCC's "Sneaky McGregor" mailer, you'll have to admit that the Dem's mud is funnier).

Nancy Garland worked as a lobbyist. She is also the superior choice to represent the 20th District in the Ohio House. If this is the worst that they've got (and wolves? Dancing Babies doing the Macarena wouldn't be more tired and cliched), then we're in pretty good shape.

And BTW, I'm sure I'm going to get the same comments that have shown up elsewhere, so let me say in advance: It is true that Bev Campbell almost beat McGregor in 2006. It is also true that Bev didn't come nearly as close to beating Garland in March. I voted for her both times. I won't be voting for her this fall. You could start a write-in campaign and watch her lose to both of them simultaneously in November, or simply get over it, or work on getting support for a 2010 run (the 3rd Senate District won't have a Dem incumbent). I suppose you could also just ignore me and keep working to keep the GOP in power out of simple spite, but I'd prefer you start your own blog if that's all you have to offer. Thanks.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Help Me Out, Pat, What am I Supposed to Write?

In the time since my last post, I've had more than 10 visits from computers on the U.S. House of Representatives network. When I got my first visit from two years ago, I felt like I had really hit the big time. Nowadays, visits from the hill are pretty much everyday occurrences, and I can count on a couple of hits whenever a post includes the name "Pat Tiberi."

It's not that I'm really all that important, I've just moved up the search engine rankings over the past two years.

But this week has been different. The 10+ visits from I've gotten is now fairly typical. I've had 30-50 visits from computers, and additional visits from computers from congressional staffers (one prominent staffer uses a static IP address that actually causes his/her first and last name to be included in the server log of every site he/she visits. I've often wondered if he/she is aware of this).

And not only have I not posted on the Robinson vs. Tiberi race in OH-12, I haven't posted on any issues that are being debated at the federal level. Which leads me to believe that there's something that folks are EXPECTING me to write about, and they keep checking back to see if I've done it yet. Problem is, and I'm somewhat nervous and embarrassed to admit this, I don't know what it is.

Perhaps it's the endorsement of Tiberi by the Dispatch this last weekend. The Dispatch was insulting and disrespectful to Mary Jo Kilroy in their explanation of their endorsement of Stivers in the OH-15 race, but they saved their even more disrespectful and insulting tactic for David Robinson when they didn't even mention that Pat Tiberi had an opponent in the race for which he was being endorsed. I felt that it was most appropriate to ignore Pat and the CD in the same manner, but if anyone wants my take on this, the Dispatch was totally classless in that endorsement, and surprisingly single-issue. The Dispatch endorsed Stivers because they didn't like that Kilroy followed guidelines and hired union labor to work for the county. They endorsed Tiberi because he has promised to fight against giving workers sick days or making it easier for them to unionize. The Dispatch basically said "We hate f#$%ing unions, and you better hate f$&^ing unions too, if you want our endorsement." And what can I say, Tiberi's a reliable vote against all things labor, and if you rabidly hate unions, you're probably going to vote for Tiberi, too. That's not really news.

Perhaps Tiberi's folks are waiting for me to unload on him over the meltdown of our finance system. Given the $2.3 million dollars has received from the financial sector during his career running for Congress (for point of reference, LaTourette in OH-14 is being hammered for taking half that amount from the financial sector over the course of a longer career), it would be understandable that they'd expect bloggers like me to go ballistic. I mean, Tiberi's primary committee assignment for most of his career has been on the committee overseeing the financial industry, and that "oversight" involved plenty of the deregulation being blamed for the current crisis. But you know what? Right now, I don't give a damn. From my point of view, this crisis is an integral part of free market capitalism. Some people will tell you that a good market will always straighten itself out more efficiently than any outside entity could hope to do. In principle, they're right. It's just that sometimes the pure market solution involves thousands dying of hunger in the streets. I won't absolve Pat Tiberi of his role in the meltdown of the American economy, but the current events on Wall Street are only Pat's fault to a small and insignificant degree. They are only partially the fault of the conservative ideology that he espouses. The current events are a national crisis, however, because too many Americans are walking on a tightrope from paycheck to paycheck without a net. The pure market solution to health care is not acceptable. The pure market solution to education is unacceptable. The pure market solution to energy independence is unacceptable. The pure market solution to climate change is unacceptable. In all of these areas there is a role, a leading role, to be played by actors in a competitive market. But there is a role for government as well, before we find ourselves in a do-or-die crisis mode. It's Pat and his cronies who are responsible for the situation in which Wall St. can survive a Main St. catastrophe, but the opposite is not true.

Perhaps Pat's staff is more interested in gossip. For instance, Rodger Moore was David Robinson's campaign manager for a couple of weeks, and then he wasn't. I've known Rodger since he basically ran Emily Kreider's campaign in 2006. I'm not surprised by either his elevation or departure. Rodger is a very different guy than David Robinson, with a different style and outlook. If you had asked me beforehand if I thought it would be a good idea for Rodger to run David's campaign I probably would have said "I don't know. They'd either be ideally complementary or truly incompatible." I don't have any gossip, but I'm guessing both sides hoped for the former, and rapidly decided on the latter. I think it's good to figure these things out rapidly.

Beyond that, I'm hearing rumors that there's a whisper campaign going on via email against Robinson. If you want me to write about that, you'll have to get someone to whisper a little bit louder.

Of course, it's possible that they've been expecting me to push the new campaign lit the Robinson campaign has been putting out about Pat Tiberi, like the Tiberi Pie and the Tiberi Report Card.

But I have to admit, I'm leaning toward the possibility that they've pulled another stunt like this one, and they hope their gutter tactics can stay in the shadows this time.

Y'all have got my e-mail address. Tell me what you're looking for. I'll do a post.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Issue 5 (Payday Loans) is apparently MUCH more extensive than you may have realized

And by "you" I mean "me." I might well have been wrong yesterday when I said that the passage or defeat of Issue 5 was irrelevant to the creation of a statewide database of payday loans, and therefore voting "no" would do nothing to protect Ohioans' privacy.

The explanation that I got from a source who's more conversant with the issue than myself simply blew my mind, and I've had to backtrack and check for myself...

Back in July, when the Payday Lenders couldn't come up with satisfactory petition language for a referendum that would repeal all of HB545, they decided on going for a partial repeal:

...Rogers accepted language that would repeal only Section 3 of the bill — the section that eliminates the current law as it relates to the loan amount and interest rate charged by payday lenders.
Specifically, Section 3 repeals ORC 1315.35-1315.44*, and the language you will see on the ballot is as follows:
Substitute House Bill 545 (H.B. 545), which was passed by the Ohio legislature and signed into law by the Governor, substantially changed the law regulating how certain lenders in Ohio operate. Under the referendum, voters must decide whether Section 3 of H.B. 545 should go into effect. Section 3 of H.B. 545 deletes the old provisions of the law regulating check cashing lenders, sometimes known as “payday lenders,” in favor of the new provisions.

1. If a majority of Ohio voters approve Section 3 of H.B. 545, all short term lenders, including check cashing lenders, would be subject to the following limitations:
  • The maximum loan amount would be $500;
  • Borrowers would have at least 30 days to repay the loan; and
  • The maximum interest rate would be 28% annual percentage rate (APR) on all loans.
2. If a majority of Ohio voters reject Section 3 of H.B. 545, check cashing lenders
would be allowed to continue under previous law as follows:
  • The maximum loan amount would continue to be $800;
  • There would continue to be no minimum repayment period; and
  • Check cashing lenders could continue to charge rates and fees, resulting in atotal charge for a loan that substantially exceeds an equivalent APR of 28%.
A “YES” vote means you approve of Section 3 of H.B. 545, and want to limit the interest rate for short term loans to 28% APR and change short term lending laws.

A “NO” vote means you disapprove of Section 3 of H.B. 545 and want to permit check cashing lenders to continue to be able to offer short term loans as currently permitted.

A majority “YES” vote is required for Section 3 of H.B. 545 to be approved.


That had seemed clear enough to me, but things are not always as they seem. In that same July Dispatch piece quoted above, A.G. Nancy Hardin Rogers makes an additional statement:
If successful, Rogers said the partial referendum could cause legal confusion because payday lenders would be operating under two sets of laws — one that requires a 28 percent interest rate, and one that allows 391 percent.
You see, part of the statute repealed within Section 3 of HB545 defines the conditions under which a "check cashing" lender can get a license. The extensive reforms listed in Section 1 of HB545 regulate the behavior of lenders holding a "small loan" provider license.

Apparently, repealing Section 3 will allow the continued issuance and renewal of "Check Cashing" lender licenses. Under this interpretation, nobody would be regulated under HB545 unless they voluntarily applied for a "small loan" provider license instead of a "check cashing" lender license.

Therefore, Issue 5 is not just about repealing the interest rate reforms on Payday lenders, it is about effectively repealing all of the reforms. As the last line of the ballot language states, "...permit check cashing lenders to continue to be able to offer short term loans as currently permitted." The clear distinction made between "Check Cashing Lenders" and "All Short Term Lenders" in the ballot language lends pretty clear support to that interpretation. So without Section 3, Sections 1,2,4,5 might as well not exist.

Maybe I'm just way too dense. Was anybody else misled into believing that a "no" vote on Issue 5 would only affect the interest rate, maximum amount, and minimum payback period? I personally find the ballot language to be somewhat misleading and I'm kind of upset about it, although most of the blame lies with me for not noticing the "check cashing" dodge, especially in light of statements from the lenders like this:
Kim Norris, spokeswoman for the Reject HB 545 Committee, said the new proposed referendum would allow consumers to choose from old loan options as well as new ones created by the new law. Critics say it would create legal confusion and lawsuits.
To be fair, I've encountered a number of summaries that miss this as badly as I do (for example here, and here, and perhaps most importantly, HERE**), but if I've helped to spread this misunderstanding, I apologize.

* Finding these sections on the net is a bit tricky. The web version of the ORC replaces the text of those sections with the single word "Repealed." The Google Cache of ORC 1315 currently has the original text, but if you click on the link for 1315.35 (or any of the specific subsections), it will take you to the current "repealed" version. If you want to use the cached version, scroll down through 1315 instead of using the links.

** It doesn't get much more to the the point than "Guess which part the lenders want to repeal? The part that caps interest rates at 28 percent."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lenders have 10 more days to come up with valid signatures

First of all, let me say that I still don't understand the timeline. My original reading of the law (though IANAL) indicated that the referendum would have to go on the first General Election occurring AFTER this November's election. It turns out my original reading was wrong (which I accept without really understanding), and the issue will be on the ballot this election.

Notice I say "will." Is that because I am confident that the lenders will make up the signature differential? No. I'm actually leaning toward guessing that they won't. The problem is that absentee voting starts in less than ten days. There will be at least a week, maybe more, from the day ballots start being marked until the day the signature count is finalized. So regardless of whether the votes end up counting for anything, Issue 5 will be on the ballot.

As to whether or not the vote counts, the lenders are approximately 55,000 signatures (and 11 counties for those who know the details of the process) short of qualifying. The lenders have been running at about a 44% validity rate, so they're looking at needing to turn in at least 125,000 new signatures to even get to the breath-holding threshhold. That's about 4000/day starting from the beginning of September. They were getting 6k-7k signatures per day during the summer, so it's certainly not out of the question, but it's in no way a certainty that they'll make it.

Late Start to the Week

Some thoughts:

1) The Payday Lenders have a new ad up, claiming that HB545 gives the government Big Brother-like oversight of your financial activities. I will admit that it burns me up every time the pharmacist has to write down my Driver's License number in order to let me purchase Advil Cold & Sinus, so this could in fact be a more resonant angle. Unfortunately, as the Dispatch points out, the ad implies much broader oversight than the bill actually allows, and that oversight would only take place if customers could get payday loans, which the lenders say will be impossible if Issue 5 passes. What the Dispatch doesn't make explicit is the related, but even more bizarrely disingenuous facet of the ad - Issue 5 will not affect the database/oversight portion of HB545 at all. The referendum only deals with the portion of the bill (Section 3 of HB545) that changes maximum loan amounts, interest rates/fees, and repayment periods. Voting 'No' on Issue 5 would do NOTHING to protect your privacy or change the number of permitted loans (dealt with in Section 1 of HB545, which is not affected by the referendum), at least as I understand things.

2) Apparently, the operators of a casino located just outside of Ohio are going to pump money into a campaign to defeat Issue 6, authorizing a casino in SW Ohio. At this point two years ago, the press and the blogosphere were in high debate over the merits of ballot measure that would have brought casinos to Ohio, a measure that suffered a solid defeat. My idle and under-informed speculation is that Issue 6 has a much better shot this year because: A) The pro-casino campaign was focused on education money, a blatant attempt to gain votes by stealth. Voters didn't like that at all, and this year's campaign has seemed fairly straightforward. B) The groups typically working against gambling are more invested in the fight to regulate payday lenders.

I could be wrong, but if the idea that the biggest source of financial support of Issue 6 opposition is a company that operates a casino that exists in part to siphon money from SW Ohio into Indiana, expect Issue 6 support to go through the roof.

3) I've been getting several emails from readers lately, very nice emails that I should have responded to but haven't. I appreciate them, and do plan to get back to you.

4) There's been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere lately about people who want to show their support of candidates through display measures only - yard signs and bumper stickers. These folks are generally held in contempt. I agree up to a point - but as blogging is barely a step up from yard signs and stickers, I'm a little reluctant to climb on a high horse. I'd echo the sentiment that if you want to get Obama elected badly enough to publicly complain about paying for a yard sign, you'll have a much more sympathetic audience after you've spent a couple of evenings doing the much more effective canvassing or phone-banking. On the other hand, if you really want to make a difference with little effort and let your neighbors know where you stand, contact a down-ticket race about putting up a yard sign. May I suggest David Robinson, Nancy Garland, or even John O'Grady? Many, if not most, of your neighbors don't know any of these names. I've had at least one neighbor ask me about David Robinson after seeing my yard sign, and at least one person tell me that they recognized Garland's name from driving past one of her signs daily. Links to each of those campaigns can be found in the left sidebar at the top of this page.