- Associated Press - Friday, May 27, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - A Georgia car title lender has contributed nearly $240,000 in additional funds to two South Dakota political organizations waging campaigns over a pair of short-term lending ballot measures, according to campaign finance records released Friday.

Alpharetta-based Select Management Resources LLC is the organizations’ sole reported financier in filings covering January through May 23. The company appears to be singlehandedly opposing proposed payday and title lending restrictions in South Dakota this election cycle, giving nearly $2.2 million to the groups in 2015.

Short-term lending opponents have put forward a ballot measure to cap yearly interest rates, while the company is funding a constitutional amendment that would impose no limit on interest rates if a borrower agrees to a rate in writing.

The convoluted campaign means South Dakota residents will likely face a confusing scenario at the polls in November: a ballot with two proposals about payday loan interest rates that could have divergent consequences for borrowers and businesses across the state.

The Friday filings show Select Management Resources gave more than $190,000 to Give Us Credit South Dakota, a group opposing the measure that would limit short-term lenders’ interest rates to 36 percent annually. The organization spent $6,000 on salaries and $194,000 on consulting during the campaign finance period.

The company also gave $46,000 to South Dakotans For Fair Lending, which is backing the constitutional amendment that would cap rates at 18 percent annually but allow higher ones if borrowers agree. The political group spent $30,000 on salaries and nearly $13,000 on consulting.

The roughly $2.4 million Select Management Resources has donated to the two groups is a serious amount for ballot measure campaigns in South Dakota, said Jon Schaff, a political science professor at Northern State University. He said the early activity indicates there’s more to come as campaign seasons gets underway.

“What are they willing to spend to see their side vindicated?” he said.

Officials from Select Management Resources and the two political organizations didn’t immediately return requests for comment. The company has locations in South Dakota under North American Title Loans.

Payday lending opponents view the constitutional amendment as an attempt to insert a loophole allowing unlimited interest rates into the state constitution.

Steve Hildebrand, a South Dakota resident who is helping lead the push for the 36 percent proposal, has said the amendment is intended to sow confusion among voters and to provide protections for short-term lenders.

Hildebrand’s group, South Dakotans For Responsible Lending, raised roughly $4,400 during the reporting period. He didn’t immediately return a telephone message requesting comment Friday.

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