Finally, after two years of frustration, Still and others were ready to try another path. “Absolutely, it was going to take a popular vote,” said Still, of Columbia. “The legislature had been bought and paid for. “
A coalition of faith groups, community organizations and unions decided to propose the ballot initiative to cap rates at 36%. The main obstacle was to collect the required total of just over 95,000 signatures. If supporters of the initiative could do so, they were convinced that the loan initiative would pass.
But even before the signing campaign began, the lending industry entered the battle.
In the summer of 2011, a new organization, Missourians for Equal Credit Opportunity, or MECO, emerged. Although it was dedicated to defeating the wage measure, the group has kept its backers a secret. The only donor was another organization, Missourians for Responsible Government, headed by a conservative consultant, Patrick Tuohey. Because Missourians for Responsible Government is organized under section 501 (c) (4) of the tax code, it does not have to declare its donors. Tuohey did not respond to requests for comment.
Still, there is strong clue as to the source of the $ 2.8 million Missourians for Responsible Government handed over to MECO during the battle.
Payday lender QC Holdings said in a 2012 filing that it spent “substantial amounts” to defeat the Missouri initiative. QC, which primarily operates as Quik Cash (not to be confused with Kwik Kash), has 101 outlets in Missouri. In 2012, a third of the company’s profits came from the state – twice as much as California, its second most profitable state. If the initiative reached voters, the company was afraid of the outcome: “Voting initiatives are more sensitive to emotion” than the deliberations of lawmakers, she said in an annual filing. And if the initiative were passed, it would be catastrophic, likely forcing the company to default on its loans and suspend payment of dividends on its common stock, the company said.