A tale of three forceful women
The last time this column visited the affairs of state Attorney General Kamala Harris she was fresh from scoring a significant negotiated victory for beleaguered California homeowners in the federal omnibus settlement with mortgage banks. What has she been up to lately? She has followed up that triumph with a principled, relentless political effort to convince California legislators to pass a Homeowners Bill of Rights.
It would put a collection of six bills into new mortgage restrictions California could implement, such as prohibiting banks from foreclosing on a property while simultaneously negotiating a loan modification on that same property.
Like President Obama’s healthcare legislation, this effort has thus far become Harris’ signature issue, and she seemed to be making significant headway on it until recently. Now, instead of just the Republicans, and the banking industry lobbyists, in lock-step opposition, some of the members of her own party seem to be trying to table the whole thing, and treat it as a nuisance.
California homeowners, many thousands of them, who’ve been fraudulently removed from their homes and who have wrestled with banks over a myriad of threats and mortgage problems, are siding with the attorney general. This will, however, be a protracted political war and either make her stronger in state politics or a wounded mama grizzly.
Just for the record, a recent audit of 400 foreclosures in the Bay Area by the county assessor found that over 84 percent were either fraudulent or lacking in important documentation necessary for the homeowner to discern whether the banks’ claims were legitimate. In the 8th and 9th council districts of Los Angeles, well over 1,200 foreclosures have recently been accomplished, occupants removed, sometimes forcibly, and properties put up for auction, only to find out later that banks could not produce the required ownership papers.
California’s mortgage crisis is still on and Harris has been diligently working to do something about it. Maybe a list of the Assembly and Senate members who are working to defeat her efforts needs to be widely published in the public’s interest.
Congresswoman Karen Bass is now the Africa subcommittee go-to person for the Congressional Black Caucus and other Democrats. Longtime champion and cosmopolitan activist Congressman Donald Payne, who was the Democratic ranking member of that committee, recently passed on. Congresswoman Bass just hosted a Southern California commemoration for Payne in Los Angeles and dedicated herself to his legacy. He will be very well missed.
Meanwhile, Congresswoman Bass, now the ranking Democratic member of that committee, is ready for her next significant challenge—being the Africa expert for thousands of her constituents and more. Already she is busy helping to shepherd an ambitious African Diaspora bill through the House that would significantly expand AGOA’s range (African Growth and Opportunity Act) and scope with benefits for African entrepreneurs and American businesses.
That bill is HR 4221, “Increasing American Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act,” and it already has a companion Senate bill working its way through the committee process too (SB 2215, Durbin), which helps tremendously (something the HR 40 reparations bill regularly proposed by Congressman John Conyers never has gotten after 23 years). Flame on, Congresswoman Bass, and keep on burning.
And wherefore art thou, great consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren, the architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? Well, she is in a knock-down-drag-out U.S. Senate political campaign against incumbent Scott Brown, the Republican, in Massachusetts. Brown won the seat in a major upset in 2010, since the state had not elected a Republican senator since 1972.
Harvard law professor and populist consumer protection advocate Elizabeth Warren is learning the political ropes very quickly. At last sight, the two were essentially tied in the polls, with Warren leaning towards the front. Brown is currently trying a version of the Tea Party “birther” issue in the race: Professor Warren was listed in the Harvard directory as a descendant of Cherokee Native Americans. She is 1/32 Cherokee, according to all of the known sources available, including an Oklahoma genealogist. Warren was born and raised in Oklahoma, and 1/32 Cherokee blood certainly works as a tribal identifier in that state, at least. The issue is throwing up a little dust in the race, but is not expected to matter much six months down the road in November.
This is a senate seat that the Democrats and the Obama administration want very badly.
We’ll keep an eye out for its vicissitudes. Is this the year of strong political women? Why not. The regular “boys in the hood” thing in Congress does not seem to be working very well, last time I looked. Change is in the wind, my friends. Blowin’ in the wind.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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For those already used to hard work, long practices and ‘burning the midnight and twilight hours’ oil,’ it is no revelation when someone says, as Frederick Douglass famously did, “there is no progress without struggle … power concedes nothing without a demand, it never did and it never will.”
In 2012, Africa is getting primary attention, to be sure. Egypt is in Africa, as are Libya and Tunisia—three countries prominent in the Arab Spring dynamics. Mali, a major challenge now, partially because of the availability of NATO and French-supplied arms in Libya, is becoming a huge headache, and Somalia remains a serious problem. Senegal rather quietly had a major election that smoothly transitioned from one administration to another.
A few months ago, we reported on state Attorney General Kamala Harris’ championing of homeowner rights in California. She was very large in brokering the $25 billion dollar federal settlement with five big banks earlier this year—JP Morgan-Chase, Bank of America, CitiBank, Wells Fargo, and Ally—all of whom wanted to limit their exposure to suits for consumer fraud and abuse related to foreclosures.
Kudos to state Attorney General Kamala Harris. She was a real champion for California homeowners this time around. She hung tough, played her cards well and walked off with the biggest slice of the monetary pie for Californians in the recently completed foreclosure mortgage deal struck between the Obama administration and the banking industry. She took the path less traveled, held out for a quantifiable, enforceable deal until the end—and got it.
Virtually every sensible American who has paid attention knows it’s coming: the Supreme Court will have to take up the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the country’s new healthcare law, aka, ObamaCare, and it will probably do so sooner rather than later.