Democratic Governor Jim Doyle is poised to act on a bill that would exempt the rent-to-own industry from elements of a state law designed to prevent Wisconsin consumers from getting ripped off.
The bill resembles proposals Doyle consistently opposed before 2002 when he was attorney general. He even used consumer protection laws to sue the industry to the tune of $8.4 million in refunds for customers and penalties.
But that was before $22,500 in campaign contributions.
Doyle received no campaign contributions prior to 2002 from backers of the bill which include the rent-to-own industry and one of their suppliers, Ashley Furniture, and General Electric. Since then he has accepted contributions totaling $2,500 in 2002, $7,000 in 2003, $8,500 in 2004 and $4,500 in 2005 from these special interests.
Now there are rumblings Doyle may sign the proposal, Senate Bill 268.
How it got to his desk is also an interesting story. The measure was introduced in July 2005 and defeated 18-15 in the Senate in November. It was suddenly reconsidered and approved 18-14 without any changes in early March 2006.
Word on the street is Senator Ron Brown told fellow Republicans, who control the Senate 19-14, that he needed this bill to pass to help his reelection this November. Among Brown’s constituents are a rent-to-own store owner and Ashley Furniture. Controversy over a planned expansion by Ashley helped Brown unexpectedly defeat former Democratic Senator Rod Moen for his job in 2002.