| The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC has been making more and more news of late. ALEC which prides themselves as a:
"Nonpartisan individual membership organization of state legislators which favors federalism and conservative public policy solutions." (http://www.alec.org/)
has been a mechanism of a corporate takeover of our state legislatures through the use of model bills that are introduced and voted on by our elected officials and corporate funders of the group. I have written two articles already about ALEC's involvement in bills introduced to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and when I was asked to look into HB2191 and an ALEC link I jumped at the opportunity. The crazy thing is while I was planning on doing an article on this bill I never thought of an ALEC angle.
While Rep. Chris Ross (R-158) is not on the list of ALEC politicians exposed by SourceWatch.org, seven of his co-sponsor are reported as ALEC members. These seven representatives to the Pennsylvania House are:
Rep. John Evans (R-5), Rep. Thomas Killion (R-168), Rep. Nick Kotik (D-45), Rep. Ron Marsico (R-105), Rep. Ron Miller (R-93), Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65), Rep. Stan Saylor (R-94 and the Majority Whip)
These seven ALEC politicians, including Rep. Kathy Rapp the sponsor of the wonderful ALEC model HB1077 (PA Ultrasound Bill) and Chris Ross' fellow Chester County Republican Thomas Killion who according to sourcewatch is a member of ALEC's Commerce, insurance, and Economic Development Task Force (which contains the financial services subcommittee), along with Nick Kotik make up two of the three Pennsylvania Representatives on the committee.
One of the main corporate peddlers for this bill that if it passes according to the Center for Responsible Lending states:
"payday loans will be granted an exclusive carve-out from the state's historic usury laws, thus allowing 400% annual interest rates on payday loans" (www.responsiblelending.org)
is Cash America, a Texas-based company whose core purpose and values according to their corporate site include the claim that they act with a servant's heart was exposed by the Columbus Dispatch (http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2012/02/04/policy-group-pays-for-legislators-trips.html) as part of a secret ALEC scholarship fund in Ohio. This fund went to pay for twenty Ohio Republican legislators to go to the 2011 ALEC conference in New Orleans. According to Sourcewatch, Cash America donated to ALEC on the "Vice-Chairman" level which included a 25,000 dollar donation in 2010. It should also be noted, that in a press release by Rep. Cherelle Parker (D-200) reminds us that:
"one of the companies pushing for enactment of House Bill 2191 - Cash America - is the same company the state Supreme Court prohibited from making illegal Internet payday loans to Pennsylvanians. In its decision, the court explained that Cash America's business model is to charge astronomical interest rates" (http://www.pahouse.com/PR/200043012.asp)
Many faith-based organizations have also come together to oppose this bill that would allow companies like CashAmerica to not only exceed the 24% interest rate cap in place, but charge as high as 680% (according to the Center for Responsible Lending). The Pennsylvania Council of Churches, United Methodist Advocacy in Pennsylvania, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania, Friends of the Poor, Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, and St Martin Center have united with various organizations to stand up to this legislation that would as Martin Luther claimed in regards to exploitation and usury:
"oppress the poor and deprive them of their daily bread" (http://lutheranadvocacypa.org)
The mammoth rates that payday loan companies like CashAmerica and other's that Rep. Ross' bill exposes Pennsylvanians to exceeds even Investopedias definition of a Loan Shark, which only goes as high as 100% as the interest a loan shark might consider.
This bill, like most that can be linked to ALEC are a cancer on our state legislatures and must be eradicated at all costs. We should be looking for ways to help Americans out of debt, not overburden them with loans that exhibit interest rates that most mob families wouldn't charge. The "servants heart" that companies like CashAmerica and the legislators they have ensnared is quite distinguishable. We must stand up to ALEC once again, the fight will not be easy but as Frederick Douglas said:
"Without a struggle, there can be no progress"