Aren't Chris Matthews and Hardball the champions of the little guy? You know, those folks, embittered by the bad economic times, who get exploited by questionable financial institutions? So why does Hardball have as a sponsor a lender with a target market of people so desperate they'd auction off their clothes, and which charges borrowers . . . over 99% per annum in interest? [Screencap showing 99.25% APR after the jump.]
There I was watching this afternoon's Hardball, when, just after Matthews got through playing [for the umpteenth time today on MSNBC] clips from Tina Fey's latest Sarah Palin impression, on came an ad for something called Cash Call. A Gary Coleman look-alike, or perhaps the Diff'rent Strokes veteran himself, appears and makes an aggressive pitch to people at the end of their rope.
ACTOR: I auctioned off my clothes. I even tried to auction off my car. But when you need cash fast, make the Cash Call!
ANNOUNCER: Just be sure you can afford the monthly payment before you borrow.
ACTOR [whose face now appears where a president's would be on a currency bill]: What you talking about?: Cash Call.
ANNOUNCER: Make the Cash Call at [provides phone number].
I went back and reviewed the ad. And sure enough, there it was in the fine print: "The APR for a typical loan of $2,600 is 99.25% with 42 monthly payments of $216.55 with a $75.00 origination fee." That amounts to a total of $9,170.10 in principal, interest and fees on a loan of $2,600. "Be sure you can afford the monthly payments," indeed.
I suppose the ad might have been a local one. But it was sandwiched between an ad for Bill Maher's new anti-religion movie and a high-toned, public-opinion shaping ad from the American Petroleum Institute. Moreover, the fine print makes reference to lending details in the various states, suggesting it is a national firm advertising nationally.
Did MSNBC sign off on this sponsor? Perhaps Chris Matthews was previously unaware of the ad—but now that he knows?