Quick Hit Adam Doster Tuesday August 31st, 2010, 10:11am

Missing The Forest For The Trees On Payday Loan Reform

Sun-Times' reporters Tim Novak and Dave McKinney did the voting public a service by exposing a loophole in Illinois' "statement of economic interest" disclosure form that allows political candidates to hide familial relationships with registered lobbyists. As the paper's editorial board writes, it's crucial that the state forces lawmakers to admit publicly who in their families could benefit from state laws. Unfortunately, the example they use to illustrate the problem is more complicated than they let on.

The reporters focus on the passage of HB 537, legislation that closed a major loophole in the 2005 Payday Loan Reform Act. Their narrative suggests that the Madigan family -- Attorney General Lisa Madigan, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), and lobbyist Jordan Matyas (who is married to the speaker's daughter Tiffany) -- concocted a diabolical scheme to create new business for Matyas, whose firm will soon track unsecured consumer installment loans for the state. It's true that Matyas' business will receive a boost from the regulatory change. It's also true that the Madigans should be forced to disclose that relationship. But the passage of the legislation was the culmination of a decade-long fight by consumer advocates to close up a loophole that predatory lenders had exploited egregiously at the expense of the state's working poor. Only in passing does the piece recognize that consumer advocates lobbied extremely hard for the bill. (It also passed the General Assembly almost unanimously.) Leaving out that side of the story does a disservice to the readers learning about the important (if watered-down) new law for the first time.

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