Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Campaign Cash

Sweetheart Bill For Rent-to-Own Industry

Two GOP legislators given donations from industry would exempt it from consumer protection laws.

By - Nov 16th, 2017 10:26 am
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Rep. Warren Petryk, of Eleva, and Sen. Terry Moulton, of Chippewa Falls

Rep. Warren Petryk, of Eleva, and Sen. Terry Moulton, of Chippewa Falls

A Republican legislative proposal would exempt rent-to-own stores from the state consumer protection laws, and help the controversial industry grow in Wisconsin, according to the bill’s authors.

Under current law, rent-to-own companies are required to disclose to customers their interest rates, which often climb into the triple digits.

The bill would require rent-to-own stores to disclose the cost of an item and the number of payments needed to own it, rather than the interest rate. The stores would also be required to disclose the difference between the price of an item and the total cost of the payments to acquire it.

Industry critics say rent-to-own stores prey on the poor.

But Rep. Warren Petryk, of Eleva, and Sen. Terry Moulton, of Chippewa Falls, said their bill “will incentivize the creation of more rent-to-own stores in Wisconsin” to serve a “distinct consumer population” that may not be able to afford common household items.

Petryk and Moulton also happen to be among the top recipients of the industry’s contributions. Between January 2011 and June 2017, rent-to-own store owners and employees contributed $14,100 to about a dozen legislative and statewide candidates – all Republicans. The top recipients of the industry’s campaign contributions were Republican Gov. Scott Walker and former Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, $4,000 each, and Petryk, $1,750. Moulton’s campaign received $500 from the industry.

The industry’s contributions came from four contributors:

Jeffrey and Cheryl Lebakken, of Eau Claire, owners of Lebakken Rent-to-Own, $10,000;

Rent-A-Center Good Government Political Action Committee, $3,000;

Mark Speese, of Plano, Tex., founder of Rent-A-Center, $1,000;

Derry Thorson, of Merrill, a Lebakken Rent-to-Own employee, $100.

Republicans have been trying for several years to exempt rent-to-own businesses from consumer protection laws. The latest attempt was when Walker proposed similar industry exemptions in his proposed 2013-15 state budget, but GOP legislative leaders removed them.

Categories: Campaign Cash, Politics

5 thoughts on “Campaign Cash: Sweetheart Bill For Rent-to-Own Industry”

  1. Ralphie says:

    Hmmm. Why is it that that distinct demographic can’t afford basic items again?

  2. Bill says:

    So much for what the Bible says against the practice of usury. But why let Christian teachings get in the way of making a quick buck, right? Just say you’re Christian and conservative and you get a free pass to do all kinds of stuff that might seem unsavory. I guess the rationale is, if they’re dumb enough to not understand what the fine print means then it’s totally cool to take advantage and heap misery on them. Thanks Republican legislature!

  3. Tony says:

    No matter how you look at it this is just plain slimy. Just disgusting!

  4. John says:

    The Rent-to-Own industry is one of the most predatory businesses ever created. There is no reason for legislature to allow them to hide their business practices. That’s like letting the meat industry label their meat just as “meat.” What would we be buying? Why the Republicans simply go out of their way to attack and make it harder and harder for people of low income to survive? It is so hypocritical and evil to do especially for an organization that called themselves Christians and for family values. It just unfathomable that mainstream religions don’t call them out and challenge their credibility on their self described church going actions.

  5. MichelleB says:

    It is shameful to make it easier for businesses to prey on low income people. Legislators should be cracking down on businesses that profit from those in poverty.

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