Fighting Predatory Lending

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle is hinting interest in signing legislation to deregulate the rent-to-own industry. The bill passed Wisconsin's conservative legislature and is now awaiting the signature of Doyle, who as Attorney General opposed similar bills.

Luckily, not all Wisconsin legislators are letting it move forward without a fight. Bipartisan advocates are pushing forward to maintain checks on this predatory industry:

Those opposing the bill include two unlikely allies Democratic Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager and conservative Republican Sen. Glenn Grothman of West Bend, who had scheduled a press conference together for today prior to a scheduling conflict.

"I think the rent-to-own industry is the most predatory type of retail outlet in the state - worse than check-cashing and auto-title loans businesses. They enter into contracts with people who expect to wind up owning the merchandise, but the retailer itself knows that seldom are people able to make all the payments," Grothman said today.

As with most predatory industries, the rent-to-own community protects itself in Wisconsin and other states with large campaign contributions.

In Oregon, advocates ranging from religious communities to unions to foodbanks are coming together this fall to crack down on pay day loan scams that target low-income workers and military families. As they've found, these issues are extremely persuasive and popular, but the best chance to advance them is often at the ballot, where the industry can't buy off the decision-makers.

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