WASHINGTON ― A progressive advocacy group focused on holding Wall Street accountable has launched the first major ad campaign since the presidential election, targeting President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Steven Mnuchin for Treasury secretary.
The ads, released Wednesday by Allied Progress, urge Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) to oppose the nomination of the multimillionaire hedge funder and former Goldman Sachs executive.
The ads highlight Mnuchin’s record as co-owner of OneWest, a bank that profited during the height of the 2008 financial crisis by engaging in an array of unethical practices. Regulators say the bank gave predatory loans to the elderly and aggressively foreclosed on people’s homes. One of those people included a 90-year-old woman who was evicted over 27 cents. The bank was also accused of racist lending practices like redlining against minority groups.
“Mnuchin made millions after his bank foreclosed on homeowners,” the narrator says in the ads. (Liberal billionaire donor George Soros, along with fellow hedge fund manager John Paulson, who is now a Trump supporter, were part of the investment team that purchased the failing bank.)
The 30-second spots, which are backed by a six-figure cable and broadcast buy, begin airing this week in Arizona and Nevada ― two states hit particularly hard by foreclosures during the recession.
“This is a guy who is a predator when it comes to making money. He say an opportunity to profit off the backs of hardworking Americans by taking their homes and he ran with it and he did it,” Karl Frisch, the executive director of Allied Progress, told The Huffington Post on Wednesday.
“To put a finer point on it: The foreclosure crisis did not just hurt people whose homes were taken,” he added. “It devastated communities, driving real estate values into the tank and it may not be the case for Steven Mnuchin or Donald Trump, but for most Americans the family home is the single largest investment and something that most people rely on in retirement. Profound, long-lasting and devastating impact, not just on people whose homes were taken.”
Democrats received more ammo in the fight against Mnuchin’s nomination earlier this week, after The Intercept reported OneWest had engaged in other shady practices. The bank was accused of “widespread misconduct” and there is evidence that it allegedly violated “notice and waiting period statutes, illegally backdated key documents, and effectively gamed foreclosure auctions,” according to a leaked 2013 memo from the California attorney general’s office.
“Steven Mnuchin got over 100,000 homeowners loan modifications and reduced thousands of loan balances,” Tara Bradshaw, a spokeswoman for Mnuchin, told HuffPost. The bank foreclosed on 35,000 homes in California alone, according to the memo published in The Intercept. “OneWest is an American success story,” Bradshaw said, “and Steven looks forward to telling it at his hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.”
Mnuchin is one of several wealthy Goldman Sachs alums Trump has named to his Cabinet ― despite his populist anti-Wall Street rhetoric during the campaign. Last month, the president-elect named Gary Cohn, the president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs, to head the National Economic Council. And on Wednesday, Trump nominated Wall Street attorney Jay Clayton to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission.
This article has been updated with comment from Tara Bradshaw.