Payday Lenders Gave $339K in Wisconsin for Usury

May 18, 2016

Payday Loans

The loosely-regulated payday lending industry preys on Wisconsin consumers and drains millions of dollars from the state’s economy, according to a new report by WISPIRG.

Wisconsin residents who use payday lenders typically earn less than $19,000 and take out an average of 12 loans per year, the report says. But borrowers pay an average annual percentage rate of a whopping 589 percent, partly because Wisconsin is one of only four states that does not cap the industry’s lending rates.

The payday lending industry, which includes title-loan and check-cashing outfits, collected $8.4 million in fees and interest charges in 2014 that could have been spent for tangible goods at local businesses, the report says.

Figures compiled by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign show that payday lenders contributed about $339,000 between January 2010 and December 2015 to partisan Wisconsin candidates for statewide office and the legislature.

The top recipients of payday lender contributions during this period were Gov. Scott Walker, GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and fundraising committees used by Democratic and Republican legislative leaders in both houses to milk special interests for campaign cash (see table below). The flow of the industry’s campaign contributions show how savvy it is at targeting key policymakers to ensure that Wisconsin remains one of the few states that allows payday lenders to charge sky-high interest rates.

Top Recipients of Payday Lender Contributions

Candidate or Committee Party Amount
Gov. Scott Walker R $40,055
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald R $23,050
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee R $18,800
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate R $16,600
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee D $11,600
State Senate Democratic Committee D $10,300

The industry’s top contributors between January 2010 and December 2015 to partisan statewide and legislative candidates in Wisconsin were:

Daniel and Linnette Wolfberg, of Winnetka, Ill., co-owners of the Payday Loan Store, $53,925;

Robert and Lynne Wolfberg, of Glenco, Ill., co-owners of the Payday Loan Store, $51,425;

Robert Reich, of Deerfield Beach, Fla., owner of Wisconsin Auto Title Loans, $37,250;

Rod Aycox, of Alpharetta, Ga., president of LoanMax, and his wife, Leslie, $28,000;

William Allan Jones, of Cleveland, Tenn., founder of Check into Cash, and his family, $26,890.