Nick Baumann

Nick Baumann

Senior Editor

Nick is based in our DC bureau, where he covers national politics and civil liberties issues. Nick has also written for The Economist, The Atlantic, the Washington Monthly, and Commonweal. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. You can also follow him on Facebook.

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Score One for a 96-Year-Old Victim of the Mortgage Predators

| Wed Nov. 30, 2011 7:00 AM EST
Lillie Mae Washington

Lillie Mae Washington, the 96-year-old woman whose foreclosure nightmare Mother Jones covered in August, has won a crucial battle in her multiyear court fight. Last week, a federal judge granted Washington's request for a temporary restraining order preventing a mortgage servicer, Ocwen Loan Servicing, from foreclosing on her home in Los Angeles.

Washington and her Alzheimer's-afflicted son, Hobert (now deceased), signed mortgage papers in late 2006 only to learn afterward that the monthly payment and fees were far larger than they had understood. Washington claims that the people who sold her the loan purposely deceived her about the costs and that their deception constituted predatory lending and fraud.

By November 2008, Home Loans Direct, the company that originated Washington's mortgage, surrendered its license during a state investigation. A California Department of Real Estate document (PDF) obtained by Mother Jones explains that Home Loans Direct did so after choosing not to contest allegations that it knowingly used loan practices that were "false, misleading, or deceptive."

But the company's loss of its license didn't mean that Washington's house was no longer in jeopardy. Ever since September 2008, when she first sued her mortgage servicer, lender, escrow agent, and others for fraud, she has been trapped in a legal hell. She has represented herself, been represented pro bono, and now pays a lawyer to handle her case. The suit has been handled by at least seven judges and the docket runs over 100 documents long in federal court alone.

Now, federal Judge Dolly M. Gee has forbidden Ocwen from foreclosing on Washington before December 13 and has ordered the mortgage servicer and the other defendants to file a brief explaining why she shouldn't forbid them from foreclosing on Washington for the duration of the legal fight.

Perhaps most important, though, is the judge's ruling that Washington's suit "raises serious questions" about whether her loan was in violation of a California predatory lending law. That means Washington's case won't be summarily thrown out of court and can move forward. And that raises the incentive for the defendants in the case to settle. 

Here's the ruling:

 

Washington isn't the first person to avoid losing her home after being featured in a Mother Jones story. Last year, Army Capt. Michael Clauer got his home back after a MoJo report about his family's plight (his homeowners' association illegally foreclosed on him while he was serving in Iraq) attracted national attention.

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PA Legislator Behind Controversial Electoral College Plan Mulling Senate Run

| Tue Nov. 29, 2011 11:45 AM EST
Dominic Pileggi, the Republican majority leader in Pennsylvania's state Senate, is mulling a run for US Senate. He's been a prominent supporter of the plan to change the way Pennsylvania awards its electoral votes in a way that could rig the presidential election against Barack Obama.

Dominic Pileggi, the Pennsylvania state Senate majority leader, has attracted national media attention for his role as the author of the controversial, dark-money-funded plan to change the way the state awards electoral votes in order to rig the presidential election against Obama. Now the GOP lawmaker is considering a bid for US Senate.

Pileggi says he's "been approached by a number of people about the possibility of running for U.S. Senate," he said in a statement to the website PoliticsPA on Monday. Pileggi added that he's "flattered by the question," and has "made no decision," but PoliticsPA cites multiple sources who claim the state Senator has already met with national Republicans about running against Democratic incumbent Bob Casey next November. 

Republican Senate Candidate: Gap Between Rich and Poor "Should Be Wider"

| Fri Nov. 11, 2011 3:22 PM EST
Without the wealth gap, how would the rich have the money for necessities like this?

Some people think that the large and growing gap between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the other 99 percent, nicely illustrated in our inequality charts, is reflective of broader problems in our society and should probably be smaller. Clark Durant, a Republican businessman who's running for Senate in Michigan, has an alternative view:

In regards to the Occupy Wall Street movement, Durant said the protesters should "go find a job." In regards to the wealth gap the movement decries, Durant said, "I think it should be wider."

Tell us how you really feel!

(h/t Sean Sullivan)

UPDATE: Durant has issued a statement on this matter. Posted without comment:

Thank you for challenging my statement about 'widening the gap'. I do not believe in widening the income gap between rich and poor, and my life's work in the inner city of Detroit demonstrates that far more than any sound bite. At Calvin College my 'widening the gap' remark, in its context, sought to challenge the students to think outside the box when they hear stock statements that pit one group of people against another. We need a country that embraces all, and rewards innovators, entrepreneurs, job creators, and hard-working people of all sorts. Innovators like Steve Jobs and Henry Ford, a part of the 1%, make life better for us all. But instead of just one, what if we had 100, 1,000, or 10,000 such innovators? And that was my point at Calvin College. I'm for innovation, and a commitment to a rising tide that lifts all boats for all Americans. I believe in the 100%.

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