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November 01, 2016 10:00 PM

Lisa Furlong Where Are U?

There are ten ballot measures that voters will be weighing in on next week. One of the most talked about issues on the ballot is Constitutional Amendment U. 

A majority of Yes votes will change the state constitution to limit payday loan companies to charging no more than 18 percent interest if there's no written agreement between the borrower and the lender. 

However, a written agreement can be reached between the two parties which would remove the interest rate limit altogether. 

The idea has generated a lot of talk, but we've heard almost nothing from supporters of the measure.

KELOLAND News goes in search of the woman who helped put the issue on the ballot.

Short-term lending is a hot issue in South Dakota, with two separate ballot measures having very different goals. 

Initiated Measure 21 would put a set cap on interest rates in the state at 36-percent. That's a fixed percentage, meaning lenders couldn't increase it in the future. IM-21's supporters have been vocal against Amendment U, saying a change to the state's constitution would prevent any interest rate caps in the future. 

KELOLAND News has been trying to track down supporters of Amendment U, including reaching out to Lisa Furlong, the chair of the South Dakotans for Fair Lending committee. Finding her has been more difficult than you would think. 

KELOLAND's Leland Steva personally started reaching out to Furlong by email. Then by phone and we received no response. 

So we decided to find Furlong and talk with her face-to-face. We found an address in North Sioux City listed on the campaign's paperwork filed with the Secretary of State, and typed it into Google Maps. 

Our KELOLAND News team drove down from Sioux Falls to a location on Google maps in North Sioux City, and found no spot for the people involved with Amendment U. 

Google Maps directed us to Military Rd and Main St. 

Yet, the street name on the report is Dexter Dr..  

A quick trip into area businesses revealed that street is not in this neighborhood. 

So Steva made a phone call to City Hall. 

The City employee says the reason Dexter Dr. doesn't show up on Google Maps is because it's not a legal street, just a private road with a collection of apartments. She guided us to the correct spot, which is on the other side of town. 

A neighbor there tells us that Furlong does live here, but when we knocked on the door.

Again, no answer. 

KELOLAND News tried again the next day by tracking down where Furlong works, but was transferred to her voicemail. 

Again, with no answer, we drove back to North Sioux City and hoped to catch Furlong after work. 

Once again, we got no answer. 

We also left the note, but still haven't heard a word from Furlong. 

KELOLAND News was able to get in touch with one supporter of Constitutional Amendment U. Laurie Haggerty works at Dakota Pawn and Thrift in Sisseton. She believes if Initiated Measure 21 passes, it could ruin the payday loan industry and leave families in tough financial situations with one less option. 

"Anybody in this industry would support Constitutional Amendment U just so it doesn't keep coming up over and over and taking away the consumer's choice," Haggerty said.

Haggerty said she's never met Furlong and doesn't know anything about her. She does admit the lack of people talking about why the amendment is a good choice is hurting the chances of people voting for it.

"I think it's probably affecting a lot of it. People, if you don't have somebody telling you what the reasoning behind it is. I mean yes there's the explanation on the ballot questions. That pretty much says it all so as far as them not coming forward or in person I don't know," Haggerty said. 

KELOLAND News has not been able to find any link between Furlong and the payday loan industry before she got involved in this cause. A look at the finance reports on the Secretary of State's Website shows that the only contribution to South Dakotans for Fair Lending, is from Select Management Resources LLC, a loan service company based in Georgia. That company has made three separate contributions, totaling almost $2 million. According to campaign finance reports, most of that money was used to pay a marketing firm for petition circulation that got the issue on the ballot. 

A lot of questions still remain about just who is supporting this measure and why, yet the search for answers also still remains. 

KELOLAND News has also reached out to Rod Aycox, the owner and CEO of Select Management Resources, the company that made those campaign contributions. At this point, we haven't gotten a response from him either.  
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