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Payday loan company makes travel donations to group chaired by Richardson

April 1, 2006 - Albuquerque, New Mexico

The nation's largest payday loan company has been providing thousands of dollars to the Democratic Governors Association chaired by Gov. Bill Richardson.

Advance America has made at least six in-kind travel contributions totaling nearly $17,000 to the group last year, making it one of the largest travel donors to the DGA, according to a copyright story in Sunday's Albuquerque Journal.

The payday loan company has a dozen locations in New Mexico and a keen interest in legislation or regulations involving the business in the state. The company is one of several payday loan companies that sued Attorney General Patricia Madrid earlier this year, successfully stalling her plan to impose strict new rules.

Advance America contributed $2,018 in travel to the DGA on Nov. 13, the group's records show. Richardson was in San Diego, Los Angeles and Palm Desert, Calif., that weekend to attend two concerts and raise money for his re-election campaign.

A Gulfstream jet airplane on Nov. 11 left Spartanburg, S.C., -- Advance America headquarters -- and stopped in Santa Fe before heading to San Diego, records from a flight-tracking service show.

On Nov. 12, that same plane flew into the Palm Springs International Airport. The next day, the plane returned to Santa Fe before heading back to Spartanburg.

According to National Business Aviation Association records, a firm called OTO Development operates that plane. The firm was launched by the chairman of Advance America.

Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos would not say whether the governor has taken flights on executive jets linked to Advance America.

"To suggest or imply a connection between any travel of the Democratic Governors Association and the governor's efforts to protect consumers is insulting and flat wrong," he said.

No travel donations are listed in DGA records during the two years before Richardson became chair of the group in late 2004, though the company did give some cash, the Journal reported.

A spokesman for the DGA, Jon Summers, said the group does not discuss details of individual governor's travels.

Richardson backed a bill during the past legislative session that consumer advocates criticized as being industry friendly. The bill would have limited payday loans to the lesser of $1,500 or 30 percent of a customer's gross monthly income. Under the measure, a customer could have renewed a loan just once and then would have been able to enter into a plan to pay off the loan -- without an additional fee -- in equal installments over 98 days.

Sen. Bernadette Sanchez, D-Albuquerque led a filibuster to kill the bill on the final morning of the Legislature. After learning of Advance America's travel donations, she said she thought the donations played a role in the governor's legislation.

Richardson's proposed new regulations are due out in the next few weeks. State officials have said the administration-backed bill would serve as the starting point for the proposed regulations.

Sanchez said if that's the case, the regulations will "aligns with the industry."

News Source

The New Mexican, AP Staff Writer with information from the Albuquerque Journal

Related Stories - Advance America Cash Advance Centers Inc. (NYSE: AEA)

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