By Betty Clermont, Atlanta Progressive News (February 19, 2006)
(APN) ATLANTA--Ralph Reed's largest campaign financial supporters, members of Georgia's Hanna family, are major owners of CompuCredit-the company which issues the highly usurious "credit rebuilding" Aspire Visa Card-Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
Aspire Visa is notorious for extremely high annual fees, monthly fees, account opening fees, credit line increase fees, and finance charges, in addition to awful customer service. CompuCredit, which runs Aspire Visa, targets individuals with past credit problems who are unlikeky to receive a credit offer from any other company.
The Hanna brothers may find it difficult to appreciate the struggles of the poor since they are listed as eighth and ninth on a 2005 list of "Georgia's 100 Barons of Business."
Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, chair of the Georgia Republican Party, and Southeast regional chairman of the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign, now finds his election campaign for Georgia's Lieutenant Governor running out of steam.
With reports piling up of his association with disgraced lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, interest and contributions to Reed's campaign are fizzling out.
In recent weeks, 21 of Georgia's 34 state senators urged Mr. Reed to drop out of the race given his ties to Abramoff.
Mr. Reed faces two compelling Democratic challengers for the Lt. Governor seat this year, Greg Hecht and Jim Martin.
Hannas First Made News for Shady Blue Cross Insurance Deals
Guarding their privacy, there wasn't much in the press about the Hannas until the state's largest health insurer, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Georgia, was converted from a not-for-profit to a for-profit corporation.
Georgia Blue Cross became a for-profit in 1996 under the umbrella of Cerulean, a holding company largely owned by Frank and David Hanna, according to the Savannah Morning News.
Advocates for the poor brought suit claiming public assets were plundered without fair compensation. Blue Cross settled agreeing to create an $81 million endowment fund that would make grants to address public health needs. When Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Georgia merged with WellPoint Health Networks in 1998, one day after the lawsuit was settled, the Hannas cleared at least $54 million in profit.
Blue Cross was purchased by Cerulean for $170 million in 1996, but was sold later for $500 million two years later. Advocates who brought suit against Cerulean contended Blue Cross was at first grossly undervalued.
Also of concern, Cerulean employed former Georgia politicians as lobbyists to shepherd the initial purchase through the Georgia legislature, including the former state democratic chairman and a former aide to the governor.
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