Republican Congressman and multi-millionaire David Trott from Michigan’s 11th Congressional District is arguably one of the most ethically-challenged members of the U.S. House of Representatives. He made millions of dollars building a vertically-integrated foreclosure business that drew national attention when he threw a 101-year old Detroit woman out of her home tossing her life-saving medications into a dumpster.
His foreclosure empire was described by Michigan State Senator Curtis Hertel, Jr. as a “machine that was made to feed off of human misery“. Here’s David Dayen on All In with Chris Hayes, talking about the “machine” Trott built:
CHRIS HAYES: What money is there to be made the process of [foreclosure]?
DAVID DAYEN: There’s not a whole lot of money to be made if you’re just doing the legal work. But Trott & Trott had a unique business strategy where they bought up practically every company down the line that gets a little bit of money out of the foreclosure process. There’s a requirement in Michigan that you have to put legal notices out in the newspaper. They bought the newspaper that did that. There’s a requirement that you have to do a title search. They bought the company that does the title searches and they get money off of that. They bought a real estate agency that then sells the houses after they go into foreclosure. So they kind of made money at every step down line and once you add that up, it’s lucrative.
HAYES: Yeah, they created, it’s sort of a “turnkey” foreclosure operation for the banks where they’re, basically, at every step in the line, they own it.
During the height of the foreclosure crisis, Trott went on the record as a proponent of the subprime mortgages that created the financial meltdown in the first place, causing a global catastrophe that led to the foreclosure crisis he capitalized on and massively profited from:
Host Henry Baskin: David, let me ask you this: Everybody who ever bought a home in the history of our country would say, ‘Hey, this is a great investment. Price always goes up. They never make new land and you can’t lose money on real estate.’ But how does this affect their inability to pay? I don’t understand. Say the home is worth exactly what they paid for it, $250,000. It’s not worth less. It’s still worth $250,000. What’s happened?
David Trott: Well, if the person bought that house, perhaps on a subprime mortgage product, which I agree with Nina, I think is a perfectly appropriate product and a lot of borrowers are real successful in subprime products so across the board they’re not bad. But if they went to subprime and they based that subprime loan app on overtime with General Motors and General Motors cuts back on the overtime, even though that property is still worth $250,000 they don’t have the wherewithal to make the monthly payments.
Once Trott bought his way into office, he introduced a bill that would help increase his profits as a foreclosure vulture:
[N]ow that he’s in office, Trott is working to enrich himself through his foreclosure business even more. This week he introduce H.R. 1849 – the “Practice of Law Technical Clarification Act of 2017”. This is a bill that, if signed into law, would exempt law firms and licensed attorneys (like Trott’s business Trott & Trott) who are engaged in debt collection from consumer protection regulations and oversight. Here’s the description of what the bill does:
To amend the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to exclude law firms and licensed attorneys who are engaged in activities related to legal proceedings from the definition of a debt collector, to amend the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 to prevent the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection from exercising supervisory or enforcement authority with respect to attorneys when undertaking certain actions related to legal proceedings, and for other purposes.
In other words, Trott’s firm could go about its shady business of capitalizing off the financial hardship of families and turn a tidy profit without the nuisance of oversight from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau getting in the way.
He also has no problem using tax dollars to promote his campaign, using them to pay for a video and mailings.
Since the November 2016 election, Trott has been facing fierce opposition from his constituents, led mainly by the 11th District Indivisible group. At one of his town halls, one of his team was heard calling his constituents “un-American” in a hot mic moment that went viral nationally. Given the pushback, Trott has apparently decided to try to soften his image by introducing ethics legislation that would compel all members of the U.S. House of Represenatives to take “ethics training”:
Members of the House don't have to take annual ethics training by law? Yeah – @RepCicilline & I are fixing that. https://t.co/FtAbVteCb0
— Dave Trott (@repdavetrott) May 25, 2017
From his press release about the bill which is titled the “Ensuring Trust and Honorability in Congressional Standards (ETHICS) Act”:
“Time and time again, one of the biggest concerns I hear from my constituents is the federal government’s willingness to put itself above the law – a feeling that has greatly contributed to the lack of trust many Americans have in Congress. No one is above the law, and Members of Congress must live by the laws they create,” said Rep. Trott. “In an effort to restore confidence in the people’s elected officials, I am working with my Democratic colleague in introducing this commonsense legislation that requires Members of the House of Representatives to take annual ethics training, ensuring representatives remain accountable to the people they represent.”
We can only hope that his Democratic co-sponsor David Cicilline of Rhode Island includes a clause in the bill that puts David Trott himself at the front of the line for that training. Based on everything we know about him and his unethical behavior before and after becoming a member of Congress, nobody needs it more.
And, by the way, why “honorability”? Why wouldn’t you just go with “honor”? Perhaps it’s because the hypocritical Trott has none.