State Rep. Earl Jones Bossed and Bought By Payday Lenders?
Last week's article reports how much Jones profits from contributions made by payday lenders.
In that article, Jones both rationalized the existence of these predatory businesses and denied receiving money from them:
"The history of white supremacy in this country is to blame for the lack of economic development in African American communities," he said, citing this as a reason payday lending flourishes today. Jones also said that he has never received money or trips from owners or people associated with the payday lending industry.
But the article goes on to list donations Jones's campaign received from payday lenders between 2002-2004.
The follow-up article reveals that despite Jones's support for Bill 621 (which "would have permitted small consumer lenders to increase the annual interest rates from 36 to 150 percent"), the N.C. House Finance Committee voted 9 to 17 against it.
Having apparently seen the evidence against him, Jones also backs down from his claims that he is not bossed and bought by payday lenders:
"There was a misunderstanding. I never intended to indicate that I did not receive contributions from the payday lending industry. I thought I was asked if I had a financial interest or was affiliated with the payday lending industry. I'm proud of the donations the payday lenders gave me and I look forward to receiving them again and from anyone else who wishes to donate to my campaign."
Kilimanjaro apparently asked a follow-up question because the article continues:
When asked about his responsibility to the people in his district versus out-of-state interests, Jones responded, "This is a capitalistic society. This is perfectly legal."
The first article did add that "NAACP President Melvin 'Skip' Alston said he hopes Jones would agree with the organization’s stance that payday lending is detrimental to the black community."
If that description is accurate, it sounds like the quietest, least attention-seeking criticism I've ever heard Alston deliver.
Some might interpret that as a sign that Alston too cannot claim to be "unbossed and unbought."
But I did find evidence that Alston has stronger opinions on the subject.
In his 2003 speech to the NAACP convention, Julian Bond singled out Alston in specific comments about the NAACP's official position on payday lending:
Two years ago, our North Carolina State President and Board member Skip Alston rightly called it "exploitation, pure and simple. Tolerating this practice is unworthy of a society that claims to value its most vulnerable." By convention resolutions in 2000 and last year and by a Board resolution this year, we've set binding policy on this issue for the NAACP from the smallest to largest Branches to the national staff. We despise this predatory practice that targets the poor, especially blacks. Charging annual interest rates of 390%, these companies prey on the weak, trapping them in unending cycles of debt. We won't take their money, and we'll do our best to stop them from taking money from others.
I'm not sure if Alston just failed to make his views as clearly known for the Carolina Peacemaker article or if he and the NAACP have changed their views on payday lending.
There's always the possibility that the Carolina Peacemaker decided to present Alston's views more gently than he actually expressed them.
It all just leaves you wondering a bit.