Members of the Utah House may be feeling a sense of deep frustration right now. They spent all that precious time, taxpayers money and political capital on the investigation of disgraced former Attorney General John Swallow, and they didn’t even get to impeach the bum.
But even though Swallow resigned before the House could lower the boom on him for his dirty campaign finance dealings, there is another, highly worthy, target on which lawmakers could and should take their vengeance.
The state’s sleazy payday loan industry, in general, and, in particular, those participants who gave tons of money to Swallow’s various campaigns and worked with the Swallow organization to destroy the career of a member of the Utah House, are a fit quarry for legislators’ justified rage.
Brad Daw is an Orem Republican who served in the House for eight years until he was brought down in 2012 by a dishonest and anonymously funded mud-slinging campaign.
Daw, and everyone else, suspected the mailers were paid for by the payday loan industry in revenge for bills Daw had sponsored that would limit some of the industry’s more insidious practices. Those suspicions were confirmed last week when the House committee investigating Swallow issued a report that outlined that high rollers in that industry not only were among the most generous contributors to Swallow’s various campaigns, but that they worked hand-in-glove with Swallow’s campaign operation to drop tens of thousands of dollars into the anti-Daw effort.
Now Daw is rightly seeking payback on the payday lenders. And at least one current member of the House, West Valley City Democrat Larry Wiley, is preparing to push some of the same ideas that brought the wrath of the predatory lenders down on Daw. Those ideas include a limit on the number of high-interest loans any person can carry at a time, or take out in the course of a year, as well capping them at a percentage of a borrower’s take-home pay that can be borrowed.
These businesses need to be brought to heel. According to a recent state report, there are 565 payday loan and title loan stores in Utah. That’s more than 10 times the number of liquor stores found in the whole state, despite the fact that payday lenders, charging interest rates of 300 percent to more than 1,000 percent, are more of a danger to the lives of desperate low-income households.
If any individual or corporation in the predatory lending industry are found to have broken any campaign finance laws, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Or, as they may say around the shop, paybacks are hell.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.