THE BLOG
10/11/2010 09:46 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Exploding Foreclosure Fraud Issue: An Opportunity for Democrats to Turn the Tide

There is a huge opportunity to create a late shift for the better in Democratic electoral fortunes because of the foreclosure fraud scandal. With the issue exploding, Democrats need to take advantage of the fact that it us who are doing the right thing on this issue, while Republicans are at best standing on the sidelines doing nothing, and at worst getting in the way of solving the problem. Democrats being on the side of homeowners getting screwed and being against bankers and lawyers who are committing fraud by sending people to foreclosure mills feeds perfectly into the overall theme progressives and some Democrats have been pushing that our government and economy can only be fixed by standing up to corporate predator special interests.

The foreclosure fraud issue has been brewing a long time now. Groups like SEIU, National Peoples Action, PICO, and other community organizations have been organizing on it for many months now, and have been doing the legal research needed to start nailing these foreclosure mills and fraudulent banks. With the issue now exploding, I think there is a real chance to shift the debate to a new level. While Democrats have been slow in understanding or picking up on this issue, the good news that they are still capable of standing up for working families on an issue like this. It is Democrats who have overwhelmingly been the ones to stand up to the banks on this issue -- Obama with his veto, Pelosi and Reid and many other Democrats in Congress who have taken strong stands on the issue, and Democratic Attorneys General around the country who have taken on the banks on their fraud. The Republicans, with only a couple of exceptions have been overwhelmingly silent on the issue, and in some cases, like the MI AG, have come out against doing anything to help consumers (because he didn't want to "politicize" the issue). As Digby summarized it:

A lot of people are trying to say that all politicians are the same, that your vote doesn't matter. Well, let's look at the evidence. In the last month, here are some news stories about politicians.

Democrat Alan Grayson Calls for Foreclosure Moratorium

Democrat Ohio Secretary of State Attacks Foreclosure Fraud

President Obama Pocket Vetos Pro-Bank Bill That Would Increase Foreclosures

Democrat Harry Reid Calls for Foreclosure Moratorium

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, California Democrats Calls for Investigations of Foreclosure Fraud

Democrat John Conyers and Carolyn Kilpatrick Call for Foreclosure Freeze

Democrat Ohio Attorney General Attacks Foreclosure Fraud, Sues GMAC

Democrat Illinois Attorney General Asks for Foreclosure Halt in Illinois

Democrat Maxine Waters Calls for a Foreclosure Freeze

Democrats Alan Grayson, Barney Frank, and Corrine Brown Call for Fannie to Stop Working with Foreclosure 'Mills' Being Investigated for Fraud

Democrat Earl Blumenaur Asks for a Foreclosure Freeze in Oregon

Democrat Jeff Merkley Calls for a Special Investigator for Foreclosure Fraud

Democrats Luis Gutierrez and Dennis Moore Call for Investigations of Bailout Recipients Engaging in Foreclosure Fraud

Democrat Attorney General in California Asks for Foreclosure Halt

Democrat Attorney General in Massachusetts Asks for Foreclosure Halt

And on and on and on....

Notice a pattern here? If not, let me give you another hint.

Republican Richard Shelby Tries to Weaken Rules, Kicks Regulators

I wonder why banks and corporations are spending $5 billion on this election, nearly all of that for Republicans.

From what candidates on the ground are telling me, though, it is still the business reporters who have been covering the issue, not the political reporters, and Democrats are not necessarily getting the political credit they deserve. Reporters are still trying to put the who-done-it pieces together on the scandal rather than being focused on which politicians are standing up to the bankers on the issue. We need to make sure voters understand who is fighting to make sure the banks and foreclosure mills are held accountable.

Democrats should not let this opportunity slip away from us: if we embrace this issue politically, telling a story about how we are the ones rooting out corporate corruption, we are the ones standing up to the banks when they try to defraud consumers, this could be very powerful, and it could strongly feed that broader frame around Democrats taking on special interests on behalf of the middle class. With this issue now front and center, Democrats should seize the initiative, put Republicans on the spot for why they are doing nothing to stand up to the banks. This could be one of the election dynamic turning things that upends the Republicans' ability to make their closing argument about government being the root of all evil stick. The White House right now is sounding too wonky and even-handed on this issue: they need to make clear whose side they are on.

One other thought on all this: I think the foreign money being used by the Chamber thing adds to the dynamic: their ads are everywhere. I have always believed that when you are being outspent in a campaign, you have to turn the tables by targeting all the money being spent against you. If the foreclosure fraud crisis is in the front pages every day, reminding voters of corporate corruption issues, and we can be relentlessly raising questions about where does the money come from for all those attack ads by the Chamber- Wall Street, foreclosure mills, and foreign companies?- I think the anti-corporate special interest frame just keeps building. Where I hope we can get to is that every time people see those Chamber ads, or other ads from groups they have never heard of, they are thinking of money from Wall Street, foreclosure mills, and foreign companies.

We have all seen last month breaking news and/or new frames shift electoral dynamics. The collapse of health care in the fall of '94 drove Democratic base performance into the dirt, and turned a tough year into a route. The fundraising scandal that broke in Oct of '96 changed the dynamics just enough to keep us from retaking Congress. The focus on impeachment in the fall of '98, and our "it's time to move on and deal with the issues that really matter" pushback turned a likely Democratic slaughter into a good year for us. The Foley scandal in Oct of 2006 stopped a potential Republican comeback dead in its tracks, and turned a close call into us easily retaking Congress. I think this foreclosure fraud crisis could be the same kind of deal. It allows us to take anti-special interest frame we have all been building for a while, and bring it to a whole different level. But we need to seize the issue, and take the credit we deserve for doing the right thing in fighting for consumers against the power of the big bank fraud. If we are willing to wholeheartedly take this mantle on, the election dynamic has the real potential for a last minute shift.