TitleMax gave $192K to pols; no disclosure
By JIM WALLS
May 9, 2009 — One of the state’s largest title pawn companies poured $192,000 into Georgia political campaigns, primarily those of state lawmakers, in 2007 and 2008.
Nobody really knew that during the 2008 election season, though. Nor was it public knowledge during the 2009 legislative session (which preserved the status quo – no state regulation – for the title pawn industry).
That’s because Savannah-based TitleMax of Georgia filed no campaign disclosure statements with the State Ethics Commission, as required by state law for any entity giving more than $25,000 in a year, until Friday. Those reports were due between April 2008 and January 2009.
TitleMax could be fined $75 for each of the five 2008 disclosure reports that it filed late – for a total of $375. The company has filed no disclosures for political giving in 2007, but an analysis by Atlanta Unfiltered shows Georgia campaigns reported accepting $75,050 from the company that year.
Title pawn lenders take a borrower’s car title as collateral. The 30-day loans generally carry high interest rates as well as additional fees that often are rolled into the principal of the loan.
Georgia caps the annual interest that other small lenders may charge at 60 percent, but title pawn lenders may charge up to 300 percent. Georgia also allows title pawn companies to take and sell a vehicle posted as collateral, even if it’s worth much more than a defaulted loan, without having to refund the difference.
All told, two major title pawn businesses were among the state’s largest political donors in 2007-08, giving $362,000 to Georgia politicians. That includes $35,800 from TitleMax CEO Tracy Young, as well as $80,000 from family members of title pawn pioneer Rod Aycox and $53,810 from his company Select Management Resources.
The top 10 recipients:
- Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine (above) — $37,100
- House Speaker Glenn Richardson — $32,200
- Georgia Republican Party – $30,000
- Georgia Republican Senatorial Trust — $27,000
- MMV Alliance Fund (Richardson’s political fund) — $25,000
- Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle — $23,400
- Sen. Eric Johnson — $19,500
- Rep. Mark Burkhalter (House speaker pro tem) — $14,900
- Rep. Jerry Keen (House majority leader) — $8,900
- Rep. James Mills (chairman, House Banking Committee) — $8,900
Johnson and Oxendine are both candidates for governor in 2010, as was Cagle until he dropped out of the race last month. Thurbert Baker, another candidate for governor, received $4,500 from Titlemax and related donors.