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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

Kai Ryssdal - Host: The Rolling Stones kick off their 25 city North America tour in Boston's Fenway Park Sunday. The proud sponsor of the tour is lending giant Ameriquest. Consumer advocate and commentator Jamie Court says Ameriquest's sponsorship is the just the tip of the iceberg on how it does business.

JAMIE COURT - Commentator: Don't start me up, Mick, I'll never stop. Ameriquest's name'll be up in lights and center stage this Sunday.

The lender's even borrowed the Stones's trademark tongue logo for its website. 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 Gettin Much Satisfaction. The company made its billions marketing high interest loans to poor people, often through high pressure door-to-door tactics.

The poor and seniors have complained of overcharges, hidden fees, and forged borrower income statements to get people to qualify for loans they can't afford.

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. That includes some attorney generals Ameriquest settled with.

Who needs enemies when you can buy your friends?

Arnall gave $5 million to a pro-Bush committee in 2003. He ponied up $1 million for Bush's second inauguration party.

And he and his wife kicked in about a cool million each to Republicans and Democrats in the last election.

So if Mick sings his anti-Bush song about hypocrisy "Sweet Neo-Con" on the dime of one of Bush's biggest contributors, he'll only be half the hyprocite.

Speaking of Predators, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger played the role in Hollywood.

And he'll be Spending the Night Together with the Stones courtesy of Ameriquest's donated tickets and luxury box. The company's already one of Arnold's million dollar donors.

Schwazenegger is scalping those seats to donors to fund his neo-con 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." You can share your thoughts by dropping us a line. It is:

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