Democratic leader Joyce Beatty’s husband lobbies for payday lender
Columbus – The husband of Ohio House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty is a registered lobbyist for CheckSmart, an Ohio-based payday lender with 106 outlets in Buckeye State.
Otto Beatty Jr., a longtime former state representative whose wife was appointed to his seat in 1999, registered in mid-January as a lobbyist in Virginia with Dublin-based CheckSmart. , Ohio, near Columbus.
The news of Otto Beatty, who declined to say how much he was paid by CheckSmart, comes as Ohio lawmakers consider a number of bills that would regulate the rapidly growing payday loan industry. Ohio.
“There are no irregularities here, nor am I trying to influence anyone about payday loans,” said Otto Beatty, who described his work on behalf of CheckSmart as advice. legal. “I’m not doing this in Ohio.”
In 2007, State Representative Beatty surprised political observers by urging members of the Democratic caucus she leads not to support a payday loan bill sponsored by Republican State Representative of Medina, Bill Batchelder. , which would cap the rates charged by payday lenders at 36%. At the time, Beatty said she believed Batchelder was using the issue to help his campaign become the next Ohio House speaker and would not support anything that was used solely for political purposes.
But in an interview Monday, Beatty, of Columbus, said she has come full circle and now supports Batchelder’s proposal.
“I am not in favor of the payday loan industry,” she said. “I support capping interest rates at 36 percent.”
However, State Representative Bob Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat who resisted Beatty’s wishes to become the main Democratic co-sponsor of Bill Batchelder, described his leader as an obstacle to payday loans.
Hagan said he approached Beatty upstairs in the House last Tuesday – asking her to help him line up the Democratic votes to get the bill out of committee.
“She said, ‘Well, it’s not going anywhere,'” he said. “And then she said, ‘I spoke to the [Ohio House] Speaker [Jon Husted], and he said it would get nowhere. ”
Hagan continued, “So I hit a roadblock – and it’s not a very comfortable roadblock because I’ve been there too long not to realize that something else is behind it. It is disappointing that this is what is happening. whether this legal work influences him or not, but I find that disappointing. ”
Beatty said she knew her husband started working for CheckSmart in January, but said the couple kept their businesses separate and he had never influenced her on the matter.
Her involvement reportedly began in 2008, she said. “In 2007, when all this [controversy] was happening, I can say with certainty that he was not involved. ”
Beatty, whose House Political Director last year was hired to work for the leading lobbyist for the Ohio payday loan industry, said she asked her husband to provide her with information on the industry in other states after hiring.
“Maybe I was naive thinking he could help me get information that I couldn’t get otherwise, and we could have a win-win,” she said. “I might have overestimated that I could save the world, but I thought he was someone I could trust to tell me how bad this industry is.”
Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, one of the groups pushing lawmakers to act on payday loan legislation, called it incredible that Beatty’s wife is working for a payday lender.
“I think it’s rather shocking, but I don’t know if this is in fact an ethical violation or not,” Faith said.
He said Beatty’s early opposition to the legislation made passing a bill more difficult.
“When you have detractors, especially someone who is known to champion the issues of low-income people, that is obviously not very helpful and has created dissension within the ranks of the Democratic caucus,” he said. he declares.
Otto Beatty declined to elaborate on the type of legal advisory work he did for CheckSmart and said he couldn’t remember how he came to work for the company. He said the payday loan company was no different from others he has represented in private practice in cases before the legislature.
“I hope your newspaper won’t take the position that I can’t work for an insurance company, gas company, or some other industry because they may have a problem in Ohio when I don’t ‘trying to influence no one, “he said.
Under Ohio law, spouses of lawmakers are permitted to register as lobbyists in Ohio or other states. An advisory opinion issued by the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee in 2000, the ethics arm of the Ohio legislature, said that a lawmaker should only step aside from voting and use office influence if the legislation will have any effect. defined and particular on the legislator pecuniary interests.
Records across the country show no indication of Otto Beatty serving as a lobbyist outside of Virginia.
Nedra Shelly of the Plain Dealer Washington office and Stephen Koff, Washington bureau chief, contributed to this report.