Posts Tagged ‘Mike Sheridan’

What is really in the payday loan bill?

February 17, 2010

Democrats in the State Assembly just passed a bill that, with the signature of the governor, will finally drive capitalism out of the state of Wisconsin.  At least that’s how the Republicans and payday lenders want you to see it.

Here’s what it really consists of:

  • A requirement that payday lenders inform clients of the total cost of the loan, including fees and the annual percentage rate (APR).
  • A requirement that lenders give clients a brochure (written and provided by the Department of Banking) with basic information on payday loans and the consequences that result from a default.
  • A requirement that lenders inform customers that they have the right to rescind the loan by the end of the next business day.
  • Loans can no longer accrue interest after the loan maturity date.
  • Lenders cannot accept collateral that exceeds the principal of the loan plus the finance fee.

In some ways, it is a radical piece of legislation. Imposing any kind of regulation on an industry which has never faced any regulation in the past is rather significant. But these regulations are so intuitive that their passage signifies nothing more than the Democrats’ realization that the story about their leader’s relationship with a payday loan lobbyist had to be killed before average voters started to connect the dots.

Once upon a time, Mike Sheridan supported a 36 percent interest rate cap on payday loans. Then he decided it was a silly idea. Then he blamed payday loan lobbyists for rumors that his caucus was going to oust him. Then he announced he was dating a payday loan lobbyist.

Democrats unite behind Sheridan, blame lobbyists

January 29, 2010

Had Madison seen its last coup when Badger Herald partisans took over the Daily Cardinal board of directors back in the 80’s? That’s the question political observers were asking themselves as rumors circulate that Assembly Democrats were seeking to oust Speaker Mike Sheridan from the lower chamber’s throne.

According to Wispolitics (whose almanac I just received in the mail!), Sheridan denied the rumors, blaming them on payday loan lobbyists. It was a surprising accusation at first because most of the controversy surrounding payday loans took place last summer, when Democrats in the legislature first attempted to craft a bill that would impose stricter regulations  on interest rates for payday lenders.

In a phone interview, Rep. Kelda Roys (D-Madison) reiterated Sheridan’s message. Roys said lobbyists likely assumed they had defeated the legislation and were taken by surprise when it turned out that legislators had hammered out a bill. “They’re saying, wait, we just spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to kill this and it won’t go away.”

When I asked her how a lobbyist might go about spreading such a rumor, she suggested that he/she would probably talk to other lobbyists at the bar. Where’s the best bar to find lobbyists? Madisons. the Local Tavern, Genna’s.

Poor Cap Times editorial knocks Assembly Dems

July 23, 2009

The Capital Times editorial board delivered a much-needed piece highlighting the hypocrisy of Speaker Mike Sheridan’s claims of instilling “ethics” in the Assembly.

The Assembly speaker declared this week: “Assembly Democrats are fully committed to clean government, and earlier this year, made a sweeping change to campaign finance practices. We prohibited members from fundraising for their individual campaigns during the budget process, and we now see that rule was incredibly effective.”

Spare us the hyperbole.

Good to see the Times on top of one of the biggest dilemmas facing Wisconsin’s political system. Nevertheless, I can’t decide which is worse, Mike Sheridan or the editorial criticizing him. It’s incredible how much the board left unsaid on such an important issue. It could have mentioned, for instance, that despite banning “individual campaigns” from accepting campaign contributions during the budget process, the ban allows party committees to raise money, which the Assembly Democrats so crassly took advantage of in June, and tried to exploit once more but was deterred by a media fire-storm.

Speaker Sheridan and his team implemented a minor reform. For this they deserved and got credit at the time it was implemented. Now they need to get serious about real reform.

It might have been more convincing to the reader if the board had taken the time to explain what  the “real reform” it supports means. The Times criticizes politicians for accepting contributions before and after the budget, but what does it suggest to remedy the pay-to-play? Public campaign financing? The idea has a strong intellectual backing – an articulate argument in its favor would have been a worthy read.

The Cap Times has in many ways admirably adapted to a changing media climate. Its weekly edition generally has interesting feature stories and its political and policy analysis generally bests the competition from regional dailies, most notably the State Journal. Although I admit to being a relatively new reader (last couple years), I sense that the Times more enthusiastically embraced its progressive label after it changed to a weekly. However, those credentials will not be respected until its ed board beefs up its articles, and stops leaving gaping holes in their arguments for obnoxious bloggers like me to point out.

Assembly Dems squirm out of fundraising mess

July 22, 2009

“Mess” would probably be too strong a word for several hundred dollars of campaign contributions, but taken in the greater context of the Democrats’ struggles with campaign finance promises, it was very important for Speaker Mike Sheridan to clear the air in these last two cases.

Several days ago I linked to an article published by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which alleged two Democratic representatives and two Republican representatives had violated the February ban on accepting contributions during the budget process.

Democrats Fred Clark of Baraboo and Ted Zigmunt of Francis Creek accepted $600 and $2,050 in contributions, respectively, on February 17. Republican Rich Zipperer of Pewaukee accepted $450 in contributions February 17 and Republican Keith Ripp of Lodi accepted a $57.80 in-kind contribution June 25.

However, apparently they weren’t the only ones. Because today Sheridan sent letters to eight representatives, including the four mentioned above as well as Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Whitefish Bay), Rep. Jerry Patrowski (R-Marathon), Rep. Louis Molepske (D-Stevens Point), and Rep. Phil Montgomery (R-Green Bay). The speaker essentially pardoned all of them. Some of them had accepted contributions the day before the budget was presented by the governor and had simply recorded the donation the next day. Sheridan blamed the other offenses on vaguer excuses, such as misunderstandings etc. He ended each letter by instructing each legislator to return the money and there would be no further action taken against them. Aw shucks.

OK, not visible ethics violations, but certainly incompetence. So convenient that there are exactly as many Republican offenders as Democratic ones. It meshes perfectly with the case I made in the last post on the matter – in politics your evil can only be defined in comparison to your opponent. This particularly issue is mainly relevant to Sheridan and the Democratic leadership – not the individual lawmakers involved. If the offenders had been all Democrats, the GOP leadership would have had a great talking point about the Democratic hypocrisy, as well as Sheridan’s inability to control his own ranks. After all, it was the Democrats who championed the fundraising ban – the ball was in their court.

Where’s the pressure on Legislature Dems?

June 23, 2009

A few weeks ago there was a state media frenzy about a promise broken by the Wisconsin Assembly Democrats. The Dems, including Speaker Mike Sheridan, had pledged not to accept campaign contributions while the budget was being written. We can assume that, like most politicians and lovers, they then spent the majority of their free time trying to figure out how to get out of the awful commitment.

Apparently all they had to do was look to the insurance industry for the answer: shared risk. If they all take them, then they’re all innocent. Hence, the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee scheduled a $1000 a plate fundraiser on June 15 at the Wild Rock Golf Club. Under fire for hypocrisy, the Dems finally postponed the gig, even though they hosted a similar one on June 3 which went practically undetected in the media.

The story gets even worse. The Assembly Democrats have ironically shown support for a full ban on campaign fundraising during the budget process, which of course would make illegal the events mentioned above. But their colleagues in the Senate don’t agree, and have threatened to block the proposal. The State Journal editorializes:

Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker has climbed out on a limb to protect a campaign fundraising tactic that betrays public trust in government.

This unrelenting support for budget fundraising seems to indicate just how important the practice is for legislators. Because of cynical trade of favors for donations? Perhaps partly. But also because the legislature is dead throughout most of the year, and the budget is by far the most important aspect of their work in any given two year period. The budget generally encompasses a variety of issues – everything from illegal immigration to gay rights. Hence, Decker likely sees it as crucial in stirring up the base and getting cash for the campaigns.

That matters to him, but it shouldn’t matter to us. The press needs to keep the pressure on Democrats to pass a ban and make Wisconsin an example for the rest of the country. The Cap Times, the Journal-Sentinel – your voices need to be heard on the matter.