- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A Georgia company that provides short-term loans has contributed about $1.7 million to a South Dakota group pursuing a ballot measure that opponents say is an industry-backed attempt to insert a loophole allowing unlimited interest rates into the state constitution.

The company, Select Management Resources LLC, was the sole financier in 2015 of South Dakotans for Fair Lending, a political committee pushing for the amendment to cap interest rates in South Dakota at 18 percent annually but allow higher ones if the borrower agrees to them.

Campaign finance documents released this week show the financial connection between the amendment campaign and the short-term lending industry. The amendment group spent more than $1.5 million circulating petitions to get the measure on the November 2016 ballot.

Select Management Resources, based in Alpharetta, has auto title lending locations in South Dakota under the name North American Title Loans. The company also is in a legal fight over whether Attorney General Marty Jackley should rewrite his explanation of a ballot measure that would cap interest rates at 36 percent annually, without the exception.

Payday loan opponents argue the industry-supported amendment would actually cement the possibility of sky-high interest rates in the South Dakota constitution. The measure says no law capping interest is valid unless the borrower can agree to a different rate.

Steve Hildebrand, a South Dakota resident leading the push for the 36 percent proposal, has criticized Select Management Resources. The 18 percent amendment was put forward after the 36 percent measure.

“Their tactics are going to be dirty and gruesome and the people of South Dakota should pay close attention to what they’re doing,” said Hildebrand, whose South Dakotans for Responsible Lending group raised about $24,000 in cash contributions during the reporting period.

Hildebrand has said Rod Aycox, who runs Select Management Resources, made a surprise visit to his Sioux Falls coffeehouse in June to try to persuade him not to pursue the 36 percent measure. Hildebrand also said Aycox paid people to try to sabotage his restaurant.

Aycox didn’t immediately return a telephone message from The Associated Press on Tuesday requesting comment.

Select Management Resources also donated $455,000 in 2015 to a political organization called Give Us Credit South Dakota that is focused on the 36 percent cap measure, according to state campaign finance documents. Give Us Credit South Dakota Chairman Bradley Thuringer didn’t immediately return a message Tuesday from The AP.

The state Supreme Court could hear arguments this month on Select Management Resources’ legal fight. A company employee has argued that Jackley’s description doesn’t tell voters that short-term lenders would be forced out of business in the state if the ballot measure passes.

Lisa Furlong, chairwoman of South Dakotans for Fair Lending, has largely avoided speaking publicly about the amendment campaign. In a statement released in January, she called the measure “far more stringent” than Hildebrand’s 36-percent cap. Furlong also did not immediately respond to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

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