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Marketplace Radio Program (NPR)
Aug 18, 2005 - 01:00 AM

by Kai Ryssdal - Host / Jamie Court - Commentator

Hypocrisy in the sponsoring of The Rolling Stones tour by AmeriQuest

The following commentary by FTCR's president Jamie Court was broadcast on Thursday, August 18th, 2005 on the Marketplace Radio Program on NPR. Click here to listen to the audio of the commentary.

KAI RYSSDAL, anchor: The Rolling Stones kick off their 25-city North American tour in Boston's Fenway Park this Sunday. Even California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is going. You can join him there in a luxury box for $100,000. Seats in the governor's box and the whole tour are being sponsored by the lending giant AmeriQuest. Commentator Jamie Court says being that kind of publicity is the way AmeriQuest gets what it wants.

(Excerpt of "Start Me Up")

JAMIE COURT:  Don't 'start me up,' Mick. I'll never stop. AmeriQuest's name will be up in lights and center stage this Sunday. The lenders even borrowed The Stones' trademark tongue logo for its Web site. The slogan? 'AmeriQuest: Not your average mortgage company. Rolling Stones? Not your average garage band.'

I'll say. AmeriQuest is among the worst predatory lenders in America. The Stones tour is part of an across-America PR whitewash to buy 'sympathy for the devil.' You see, AmeriQuest customers aren't getting much 'satisfaction.' The company made its billions marketing high-interest loans to poor people, often through high-pressure, door-to-door tactics that includes overcharges, hidden fees and forged borrower income statements. AmeriQuest recently put $325 million aside to settle a giant predatory lending case with 30 states; chump change compared to its profits.

The same day, President Bush named AmeriQuest's billionaire owner Roland Arnall as ambassador to the Netherlands. Arnall's road from predator to patriot is paved with big bucks that have gone to both Republicans and Democrats, including some attorney general AmeriQuest settled with. Who needs enemies when you can buy your friends? Arnall's given millions to Bush, and he and his wife have kicked in about a cool million each to Republicans and Democrats in the last few election cycles.

So if Mick sings his anti-Bush song about hypocrisy, "Sweet Neocon," on the dime of one of Bush's biggest contributors, he'll only be half the hypocrite. After all, Maria Shriver and her Democratic clan will likely be 'spending the night together' with Schwarzenegger and The Stones courtesy of AmeriQuest's donated tickets and luxury box. Schwarzenegger is scalping those seats to donors to fund his neocon agenda in California; nothing hypocritical about that.

Mick, I'm not 'too proud to beg.' 'It's not only rock 'n' roll,' and I don't like it. So don't be a 'beast of burden,' donate your proceeds to advocates like me who fight predatory lending.

RYSSDAL: Jamie Court is the author of the book "Corporateering."
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