JEFFERSON CITY – A Kansas City-based political committee appears to be teaming up with a pair of payday lending companies in the hopes of defeating a Democrat running for Missouri Senate.
Freedom PAC – which raised $376,00 last year for an unsuccessful campaign to end Kansas City’s earnings tax – has reported spending $50,000 on ads targeting Columbia Democrat Mary Still during the week leading up to next Tuesday’s election. Still is running against incumbent Republican Sen. Kurt Schaefer in one of the state’s most closely watched legislative races.
Freedom PAC received $40,000 last week from Overland Park-based payday lending company QC Holdings Inc., which operates primarily under the Quik Cash name. Another $10,000 was reported yesterday from Cincinnati-based Axcess Financial Services Inc., which operates under the Check 'n Go name.
Still has long been an advocate for stricter regulations on payday lending, repeatedly pushing to limit the interest rates charged by the short-term loan companies to 36 percent. The average interest rate for a payday loan in Missouri is 445 percent annually.
The Still-Schaefer race is considered one of the most competitive state Senate campaigns this year, with Still providing one of the few opportunities for a Democrat to unseat an incumbent Republican. However, even in a traditionally Democratic district, Schaefer is favored to win and has raised nearly four times as much money as Still.
A measure capping interest rates on payday loans fell short of the required number of signatures need for it to be placed on the statewide ballot. Payday lending companies spent heavily to oppose the measure and keep it off the ballot.
QC Holdings has been a major donor over the years in Missouri to both Democrats and Republicans. A recent study found the company donated around $340,000 between the 2000 and 2010 election cycles.
Freedom PAC -- which has no connection to Freedom Inc., one of Kansas City’s best-known political clubs -- also recieved a $37,500 donation from a Virginia-based nonprofit called New Models. The nonprofit has been involved in several Congressional campaigns around the country over the years, and in 2010 gave $1.5 million to a campaign in Ohio seeking a statewide vote on whether to legalize slot machines at racetracks.
And yesterday, Freedom PAC reported spending nearly $12,000 on mailers opposing a ballot measure that would raise the state’s tobacco tax. The spending was reported on the same day a $12,000 donation was received from the group leading the effort to defeat the tobacco tax measure, the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association.
Requests for comment from Freedom PAC were not immediately returned.