Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 30), asked the Arizona Attorney General’s Office to investigate the Arizona Financial Choice Association for misrepresenting information to both elected officials and to consumers.
The Arizona Financial Choice Association delivered boxes filled with signed form letters to members of the Arizona House of Representatives earlier this month. A cover letter attached to the box stated that the letters were “from citizens across the state who support more loan options.”
“The representatives who received these letters were given the impression that the people signing them supported SB 1316, a bill that would legalize predatory loans with interest rates around 200 percent,” McCune Davis said. “But when we started calling some of the people who signed the forms and asking them about the bill, the reactions we got were disconcerting. Many of them expressed apprehension and flat-out opposition to the bill, once they heard the explanation of what it would do. In fact, some people said they were told the legislation would create better loans but were not informed of the predatory interest rates.”
In 2008, nearly 60 percent of Arizona voters rejected payday lending such as what is proposed in SB 1316 in spite of the industry spending about $15 million, according to records filed with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
McCune Davis said that she and some of her legislative colleagues spoke with several people across the state who said they were told the form was part of their loan application and that they needed to sign it. She added that others said they did not recall signing the document at all or that they did not know that the document would be used for lobbying purposes. Several Spanish speakers, reached by phone, said they believed the English language petition was to eliminate payday lending – not create a new predatory product.
“This unethical and illegal lobbying tactic underscores the lengths to which the payday loan industry exploits Arizona’s financially vulnerable,” McCune Davis said. “These actions must be investigated immediately.”