Progressive ‘Dump DeMarco’ campaign gives Obama administration a headache

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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The movement by progressive activists to replace Obama administration Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) acting director Edward DeMarco has reached a fever pitch in various states.

The movement has helped forge a growing rift between the Obama administration and the grassroots progressive base, and has forced the administration to begin floating the names of various potential replacements for DeMarco, according to insiders.

DeMarco, whose office acts as the conservator of government-sponsored lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, has come under fire from progressive activists, led by the New Bottom Line Coalition. DeMarco opposes efforts to enact principal reduction, a process by which underwater housing mortgages are reset to fair-market value, on Fannie and Freddie loans.

The New Bottom Line Coalition’s “Dump DeMarco” campaign, which calls for DeMarco to be replaced at FHFA with an Obama recess appointment, grabbed headlines last month when activists disrupted DeMarco’s statements before a congressional panel broadcast on CSPAN.

Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, one of the most openly liberal members of Congress, attended an Occupy Homes Minnesota rally Tuesday at which demonstrators called for DeMarco’s removal. The demonstrators also delivered an unrelated petition, calling for the Obama administration to end its so-called “too-big-to-jail” policy toward Wall Street banks, to the neighboring Minnesota attorney general’s office.

That the “Dump DeMarco” campaign is now being linked to other progressive criticisms of the Obama administration, like “Too Big to Jail,” could mean that the administration’s most effective shield from the anti-DeMarco protests – the fact that DeMarco was a Bush appointee to FHFA – is breaking down in the view of progressives.

Many anti-DeMarco activists have been careful to label DeMarco a Bush appointee in their messaging efforts, in order to not alienate potential pro-Obama supporters of their cause. “Meet Ed DeMarco, the Bush appointee who works for Obama,” reads a headline on the New Bottom Line Coalition’s website. A “Dump DeMarco” petition on MoveOn.org identifies DeMarco as a “Bush appointee.”

But though DeMarco was appointed to a deputy post at FHFA by Bush in 2008, he was promoted to acting director by Obama in August 2009. While the Obama administration continues to stall in replacing him, progressive activists are ramping up their protests.

On April Fool’s Day Monday, Michigan United activists, joined by the president of the Metro-Detroit AFL-CIO, held a press conference outside the McNamara Federal Building in Detroit at which the Austin Powers character “Dr. Evil,” standing in for DeMarco behind an FHFA podium, criticized activist attempts to enact principal reduction.

“Over thirteen million American families are underwater on their mortgages, meaning that the homes they purchased are worth less than what they bought them for. And being underwater is the number-one risk factor leading to foreclosure, more so than getting sick or getting laid off. So some people (cough) have suggested mortgage relief in the form of principal reduction is the ‘natural solution’ to the housing crisis. And sure, FHFA has the power to do just that. …” the “Dr. Evil” character said in his remarks.


Activists in Washington state plan to visit Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office later this week, clad in snorkel gear to signify themselves as “underwater” homeowners, to thank Ferguson for calling for DeMarco’s dismissal.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement will also deliver a letter next week to the Iowa state Democratic Party urging the Obama administration to replace DeMarco.

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Patrick Howley