Monday, April 21, 2008

Ga. Rep."Mitchell insists he's not a lobbyist."

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State Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) visited the Louisiana Legislature last week on behalf of a lending company trying to kill a bill to cap interest rates on payday loans.

That's Mitchell's other job. He's vice president of government relations for Community Loans of America Inc., one of the largest car title and payday lending companies in the nation.

Payday lenders provide short-term, high-interest loans for people with poor credit.

The practice is illegal in Georgia.

Mitchell insists he's not a lobbyist. Nor, Mitchell said, did he go to Louisiana to urge lawmakers to stop the anti-payday industry bill.

"That's not what I do," Mitchell said. "My role is closer to community relations and creating goodwill."

However, the author of the legislation, Louisiana state Rep. Rickey Hardy (D-Lafayette), said Mitchell told him that the bill, if enacted into law, "would hurt the little man."

Mitchell adamantly denies saying that.

Georgia law does not prohibit legislators from lobbying other state legislatures on bills that might affect the companies they work for.

But some ethics-in-government advocates say they shouldn't do it.