Playing Politics with the Lives of Struggling Homeowners
For weeks, Rep. Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver) has been using his position as the co-chair of the House Consumer Protection Committee to block any movement on bills that would protect homeowners from the foreclosure abuses of big banks.
Hailing from Central Oregon, the epicenter of the state’s foreclosure crisis, you’d think Rep. Whisnant would feel the pain of struggling homeowners, but instead he’s remained steadfast in his opposition to these basic consumer protection bills.
He’s reportedly spent weeks getting angry emails from his constituents, and even the Oregonian editorial board called him out for refusing to budge on what is basically the biggest economic issue facing our state.
Whisnant killed the House versions of these bills outright, but when the Senate sent him two similar bills (SB 1552 and SB 1564) with a broad bipartisan majority, he decided to pull a fast one: Instead of killing these bills again, he and Rep. Matt Wand let the banking industry just up and rewrite them.
It’s a pretty classic bait and switch—they’re trying to replace the bills with the lobby’s wish list. Not only are they killing any new protections for homeowners, but they’re also rolling back the Attorney General’s existing enforcement authority.
But here’s where it gets really, really clever. Whisnant and Wand have now styled themselves as bold consumer protectors. Here, read the title from their joint press release:
“REPUBLICANS OFFER FORECLOSURE SOLUTION TO ASSIST DISTRESSED HOMEOWNERS
Amendment Expands Homeowners Assistance Including Mediation with Dedicated Funds.”
Then, Whisnant’s local TV news station, Bend’s KTVZ, published an article that is an exact copy of his press release—literally word for word—but with the even more ludicrous title: “Whisnant Works to Save Foreclosure Aid Bill.”
For its article, KTVZ cited “KTVZ.com news sources.”
Actually, here’s what the amendments do:
1. Repeal the Attorney General’s authority to go after banks that engage in abusive mortgage servicing practices.
2. Eliminate the requirement that banks meet with homeowners in mediation to at least try to find a solution before foreclosing
3. Retroactively validate the controversial MERS system, which banks created to avoid recording sales with counties and has led to numerous lawsuits
I’ve gotta hand it to Whisnant, Wand, and their fellow House Republicans—it takes a certain kind of chutzpah to pull this kind of bait and switch, especially when your districts are filled with so many families facing foreclosure.
This is how far through the looking glass we are: Even the Oregonian editorial board has come out swinging against the GOP’s efforts to kill these bills.
Here’s what they said this morning: “If this Legislature comes up empty on foreclosure reform, it will be one of the great failures of the February session, one that will follow lawmakers wherever they go this election year.“
--Update: KTVZ updated their site with a much fairer story, but you can see the original version here.