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Iowa Contenders Silent On Foreclosure-Crisis Reckoning Sought By Iowa AG

First Posted: 01/03/2012 4:47 pm Updated: 01/03/2012 6:05 pm

Republican candidates vying for the support of Iowa caucus-goers on Tuesday evening apparently have nothing to say about the big, bipartisan foreclosure fraud settlement sought by the Hawkeye State's top law enforcement official.

For the past year, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has led a coalition of state AGs in search of a reckoning with the nation's biggest banks over homeowner abuse and rogue foreclosures. The settlement -- which could provide as much as $25 billion of relief for mistreated current and former homeowners -- is currently the biggest thing happening in the housing-policy world. The deal, which could be inked as soon as this month, has the support of most state attorneys general; a small handful of Democratic attorneys general have left the negotiations, complaining the deal is too soft on the banks.

Yet even though the top cop negotiating the settlement is headquartered in the state where Republican candidates are frantically campaigning, none of them, apparently, has uttered a word about the settlement.

HuffPost reporters who have been covering campaigns in Iowa for the past week haven't heard a peep about foreclosures. A news database search for the terms "Iowa" and "caucuses" and "foreclosures" turns up no comments from the candidates or their surrogates on the topic. Google news searches for terms like "Tom Miller" or "foreclosure settlement" and "Iowa caucuses" yield no results.

Miller's office declined to comment.

Part of the reason is that the candidates don't have much to offer in terms of solutions to the ongoing foreclosure crisis. In what might be his most detailed statement on the foreclosure crisis, front runner Mitt Romney suggested the government should step aside and let the market heal itself.

"Let it run its course and hit the bottom," Romney told the Las Vegas Review-Journal's editorial board. "Allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up, and let it turn around and come back up."

The issue could be a potent one for Republicans, as the Obama administration's signature foreclosure prevention effort has largely failed to staunch the nation's foreclosure crisis. Instead of the 3 to 4 million mortgage modifications Obama promised in 2009, the effort has yielded fewer than 800,000 lasting modifications; nearly 1 million homeowners have seen their modifications canceled. The Obama administration is working alongside Miller in the settlement talks.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, the only Republican candidate to offer a detailed position on the settlement talks, is skipping Iowa to campaign in New Hampshire instead.

"It's almost like nobody wants to talk about the elephant in the room, which is the foreclosure crisis," said Liz Ryan Murray, policy director for community organizing group National People's Action, part of a coalition of consumer advocacy groups pushing for a stronger settlement. Asked why the Republicans wouldn't talk about the foreclosure crisis, Murray said, "My guess would just be that they don't have any good solutions."

Story updated to include comment from Murray.

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