Happy Birthday, Marvin Gaye!
The ideology at work here isn’t really Wall Street or Main Street, red or blue; only green.
It's good to know how JPMorgan and all the rest of the banksters fit into the liberal causes, isn't it?
We shoulda guessed by now.
Salon continues to do the important U.S. reporting of our time.
David Dayen breaks ranks for US.
Apr 2, 2014 07:44 AM EST
How profit-hungry Wall Street landlords are secretly trying to turn themselves into a modest, lovable trade group
The Wall Street rental scheme, the mass purchase of 200,000 single-family homes by hedge funds and private equity firms to convert to rental properties, has run into some trouble. Complaints from renters have proliferated, alleging that repairs go unaddressed, leases violate local tenant ordinances and unnecessary evictions often occur due to negligence. The plan to sell bonds backed by revenue from the rental properties has also stumbled. Collected rents on the initial rental-backed security from private equity giant Blackstone fell 7.6 percent from October 2013 to January 2014, suggesting that the homes aren’t being occupied at a level necessary to make the deal work. The Standard and Poor’s rating agency declined to offer a triple-A rating for the securities, and with fewer foreclosed properties to buy and higher home prices, many investors have cooled on the idea.
Nevertheless, the firms who already purchased the homes and put the scheme in motion have plowed ahead. Colony Capital, American Residential Properties and American Homes 4 Rent have all floated their own rental revenue bonds.
And now the major players in this space have done what every industry of questionable merit does in response to hardship – they created a trade group to lobby in Washington on their behalf.
The National Rental Home Council, unveiled last week, seeks to make Americans comfortable with their new Wall Street landlords. And the backers – Colony Capital, Blackstone subsidiary Invitation Homes, American Homes 4 Rent and Starwood Waypoint Residential Trust – hired some of the most skillful operators in Washington to aid them: a lobbying shop made up of veterans from the Clinton White House.
The Glover Park Group put together the NRHC. (If this was a secret, it was fairly ill-kept, given that the first two followers of the NRHC Twitter feed are Glover Park Group employees.)
Glover Park Group is a full-service public relations and lobby firm founded by former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart and other expats from the Clinton-Gore years. They’ve represented a large number of corporate clients over the years. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, GPG’s lobbying income hit $7 million in 2013, a new high, including plenty of work for the banking and real estate sector, from the American Bankers Association to JPMorgan Chase.
GPG has longtime ties to the private equity industry. In 2012, they set up the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, to push back against what they called an “inaccurate caricature” of Mitt Romney’s activities at Bain Capital. This actually started in the 2012 primaries, when Newt Gingrich tried to make hay of the Romney/Bain connection, and it continued when the Obama campaign stepped up the criticism.
So these Clinton vets attacked Democrats for daring to speak up about the value-stripping activities of the private equity industry, and the effect on workers who too often got pushed to the side. Private equity’s main trade group paid GPG almost $350,000 for these services.
Private equity isn’t just a client of GPG; it’s an investor. The firm Svoboda, Collins made a “major investment” in GPG back in 2006. While no dollar amounts were disclosed, when GPG was sold in 2011 to the public relations giant WPP, it was described as a “portfolio company” of Svoboda, Collins. So private equity basically bought the Glover Park Group. And now we’re seeing the Clintonites over there helping to give back.
The Glover Park-directed NRHC message is pretty clear: These lovable private equity firms are merely “professionalizing the industry” of rental property management, while providing important benefits to the housing market by putting distressed properties back into circulation. This revives neighborhoods and creates jobs, according to the NRHC mission statement.
The NRHC website employs the familiar tactic of using big, friendly graphics to dismiss any concerns with the industry’s profit-making strategy (one banner screams “1,014 jobs!”). I mean, could you possibly have an issue with a stick figure holding a piece of lumber and a saw? And you can be sure of the rigorous nature of their home inspection process, because the stick figure is wearing a hard hat!
The talking points should arouse some suspicion. An infographic on the NRHC site asserts that 81 percent of renters report a positive experience from renting, neglecting to mention that this covers all renters, not just the ones living in single-family homes purchased by Wall Street landlords. A separate PowerPoint presentation claims that the industry does not compete with first-time homebuyers because they buy different kinds of properties. This varies with the actual experience of would-be homebuyers, particularly at the entry level, who report being shut out by all-cash competitors.
Indeed, according to economists Amir Sufi and Atif Mian, home price gains over the last three years have been driven almost entirely by investor purchases, meaning that the impact on the overall market goes well beyond the individual purchases themselves.
Glover Park isn’t really targeting skeptics or even the public with their trade group. They want to influence policymakers. The creation of the NRHC comes just a few weeks after Mark Takano, one of the major critics of the Wall Street rental scheme in Congress, put out a report questioning the industry, and then asked federal regulators to investigate their activities.
The NRHC comes along just in time to undercut Takano, offering the industry’s side of the story to lawmakers who typically have no problem hearing out the concerns of corporate lobbyists. This will help ensure that the Wall Street rental scheme can continue without any regulatory or legislative interference. The Clintonite ties of the Glover Park Group probably help the NRHC get their foot in the door among Democrats, while Republicans don’t need any special nudge to support corporations over renters.
The National Rental Home Council is actually a pretty mundane example of how Washington works these days. Policymakers rotate out of government and onto K Street, where they use their ties to the White House or Capitol Hill to get rich advocating for special treatment for even richer people (Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman made an absurd $374.5 million just in 2013).
No matter how many outside voices press for more investigation of the single-family rental industry and mounting evidence of lax property management, the big players have enough money to hire the insiders and make sure their money-making scheme runs into no disturbances. Whether renters get bulldozed over in the process makes little difference.
The fact that a bunch of corporate Democrats have facilitated this gambit shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows the history of the Clinton administration’s deregulation of Wall Street. Though in the end, if affordable housing groups and poor families had the cash to pay the Glover Park Group, they’d surely create the National Coalition of Renters for Fairness or something. The ideology at work here isn’t really Wall Street or Main Street, red or blue; only green.
David Dayen is a contributing writer for Salon. Follow him on Twitter at @ddayen.
More David Dayen.
And you thought the liberals were never going to take advantage of the lower class' desire for fair treatment? Not if there's moolah to be made, babies!
All I want to know is who's trying to create our coalition for fairness?
Recently, Slate Magazine identified the Member of Congress who had passed more amendments on the Floor of the House last year than any other Member. A Democratic Member who was constantly winning votes in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. A Congressman in only his third year in Congress, without seniority, without a leadership position, who was going toe-to-toe against Committee Chairmen, and winning. A Congressman who passed one provision after another that promoted progressive principles, in defiance of the House's Tea Party leadership. Slate called him the “most effective Member of the House.”
That was me.
Business Insider, hardly a bastion of progressivism, recently asked the question, “Who introduced the most bills in Congress in 2013?” Many people assumed that it would be a Committee Chairman, or a “Ranking Member,” or a senior Congressman or Senator who had accumulated draft legislation over many years. But they found that it was a second-term Congressman who had not only drafted dozens of bills, but also hundreds of amendments. Someone who had contracted the House Legislative Counsel to start drafting bills even before he took office. Business Insider called him the most productive Member of Congress.
That was me.
And these are not bills or amendments to rename a post office, or establish a committee, or require a report from some obscure federal agency. Not at all. Outnumbered and outgunned in the Tea Party House, we nevertheless found a way to pass meat-and-potatoes progressive provisions like these:
And off the Floor, when war with Syria loomed, I did seven national TV interviews in a single day, to make sure that the public was properly informed of the facts. Because when it comes to war, it’s our money, and it’s our blood, so it should be our decision.
- Defeating the military-industrial complex’s plan to deploy weaponized drones in the United States.
- Instituting a “corporate death penalty” against crooked government contractors who cheat the taxpayers and the troops.
- Prohibiting racial profiling and other violations of our constitutional rights by the Department of Homeland Security.
- In an era of tight budgets, conjuring a 50% increase in federal funding for bilingual housing counseling.
- Reprogramming of tens of millions of dollars out of the weapons budget and into the biomedical research budget.
And when the proposed federal budget included a cut in Social Security benefits, I wrote a petition that drew an incredible 3,000,000 signatures against “any and all” cuts in our benefits – and then I delivered that petition to both the President and to the Speaker of the House.
Let me sum it up for you this way: I’m a Progressive. And I get things done.
And let me tell you something: you pay a price for that.
I was elected to Congress in 2008. In 2009 and 2010, what Hillary Clinton called “the vast right-wing conspiracy” saw what I could accomplish, as a freshman. So they mobilized to defeat me. The “independent expenditures” (a/k/a “sewer money”) against me reached $5.5 million – at that time, the most sewer money that had ever been spend in a House race, anywhere, ever. Four million dollars of that came from the deep pockets of the right-wing Koch Brothers alone. And they did beat me in 2010.
But now I’m back. Following what the U.S. House Historian told us was the biggest comeback in the history of the House.
Yet the Koch Brothers seem no more fond of Alan v2.0 than they were of Alan v1.0. The Koch Brothers started to run ads against me, in my district, last November. A year before the election.
At the same time, as the Washington Post reported, the National Republican Party “targeted” me, and started an ad campaign condemning me as an “Obamacare co-conspirator.”
And whenever I’m the subject on Faux News or hate radio, what Bill Clinton called “the politics of personal destruction” seems to reach new heights. Recently, on Fox News, former Rep. Allen West said that he “prays” for my defeat this year. Hate-meister Bill O’Reilly called me “crazy” and “unbalanced.” Hate-meister Mark Levin called me a “circus clown.” Hate-meister Sean Hannity smeared me by falsely claiming that I had invited a “designated Al Qaeda terrorist” to brief Congress. Hate-meister “Joe the Plumber” (remember him?) called me a “piece of nose slime” and a “dreg of society.”
When Senator (now Secretary) John Kerry was the Democratic candidate for President, this type of personal vilification was called “swift-boating.” Well, I’m not just being swift-boated. I’m not just being swift-flotilla’ed. I’m being swift-armada’ed.
So here are two questions for you:
(1) Do you care that there is a Progressive in Congress who can get things done?
(2) If so, then when you see that I’m on the GOP hit list, what are you going to do about it?
Today marks our Federal Election Commission report cut-off date. We are under attack. It’s time for us to circle the wagons, and return fire. I need your help, and I need it now. We need to hire canvassers, collect petitions, set up phone banks and hand out campaign literature – right away. Every dollar counts. Our deadline is midnight TODAY. Please contribute.
Speaking of the FEC, last year, the Houston Chronicle studied FEC records regarding the 2012 election. They found that exactly one Member of the House – one out of 435! – had raised most of his campaign contributions from small donors. Only one.
That was me.
[The only Senator, out of 100, was Bernie Sanders (I-VT). And the only Presidential candidate, God help us all, was Michele Bachmann.]
I can’t turn to the lobbyists and the PACs and the multinational corporations and the millionaires and the billionaires for campaign support. I have only one person to whom I can turn.
That is you.
Look, this is not some remote hypothetical. When you are a “targeted” House Democrat, it means that the other side is planning to spend $5 million or more to defeat you. You can take my word for it, because it happened to me before. And it worked. I was out of office. For two years, I wandered in the wilderness.
When you are out of office, there ain’t nothing you can do for nobody. Think of liberal lions like Dennis Kucinich, Barney Frank, Russ Feingold. Think of how much they accomplished in office. And then think of what they accomplished afterward.
How much would Elizabeth Warren be able to achieve if she had lost her Senate race?
More than 100,000 people have contributed to our campaign. You may even be one of them. That’s great, and I’m grateful. But that’s not enough to counter $5 million. If you haven’t contributed today already, then I need you to do that now.
And the most effective way to do that is to make a monthly pledge. Just $10 or $20 or $25 each month – it adds up. It makes a difference, a huge difference. Every dollar counts.
We are fighting for justice, equality, and peace. We are paying attention, we are working hard, and we are getting things done. And because of that, I am under attack. I need your help, and I need it today.
I know you are counting on me. Well, it works both ways. I’m counting on you. Please don’t let me down.
It’s my job. But it’s your future.
Rep. Alan Grayson
“Just because you don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean that politics won’t take an interest in you.” – Pericles.