The Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) failed to mention any of headline items in three of their recent ‘news and updates’ to their members. Ponder that point as you read what follows.
When MHProNews asked the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) about the following matter approaching 2 weeks ago, sources there said they had already acted, but were waiting to announce their action steps until after the Manufactured Housing Executive Committee (MHEC) meeting in Nashville, TN this past weekend.
MHProNews has held this report until today, to see if even after the MHEC meeting, what MHI might say or do. Why their silence and delays? Aren’t they claiming to be protecting and promoting the industry?
This Masthead report has a wrinkle MHARR has not raised, so make sure you get the insights we uncovered in addition to all of the MHARR statement. As an association, they have to navigate the waters of Washington in a different manner than we have to report events and the machinations that are often at work behind the curtains.
This reasonably complete snapshot should make MHI members, MHI affiliates and their followers sit up and once more take notice how the industry is being undermined through weaponized nonprofits. It also reflects their purported court eunuch status of the MHI front group and several of their affiliates.
Following that preface:
- Part One of this report will be key elements from the Energy and Environment (E&E) Legal Institute research.
- Part Two of this Masthead will be the insights from 2 different letters from MHARR addressed to the Department of Energy (DOE).
- Part Three will be a brief analysis, commentary and linked reports.
With that outline for this report, let’s begin with E&E Legal’s revelation. Because it is timely and relevant – and was confirmed in part last night during the Democratic Debate by billionaire Mike Bloomberg. This is relevant to 2020 politics and the Buffett machine’s purported manufactured housing industry machinations.
“In a report published in the fall of 2014, E&E Legal details how eight of the Sierra Club Foundation’s 18 directors own or operate organizations that directly benefit from its Beyond Coal campaign, the Sierra Club Foundation’s single most expensive program. Beyond Coal is sometimes referred to as the “war on coal,” described by Politico as “the most extensive, expensive and effective campaign…maybe in the history of the environmental movement.””
So begins the executive summary of 41-page Energy & Environment Legal Institute Report entitled:
“Big Donors…Big Conflicts: How Wealthy Donors Use the Sierra Club to Push Their Agenda”
The short version is summed up like this. E&E has documented that former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the Tides nonprofit are among those that are big donors with ‘big conflicts’ that support the Sierra Club. When men like Buffett and Bloomberg speak of “philanthropy” – this is what should come to mid. These so-called charitable causes that they give their money away to are by accident or design doing their dirty work to undermine competitors and keep new entrants out of a given field – moat style. Are those coincidences or is that their plan?
The Sierra Club sued the Department of Energy (DOE) about the manufactured housing energy standards. In a complaint filed 12/18/2017, the “Sierra Club Sought to Compel Issuance of Long-Overdue Efficiency Standards for Manufactured Housing.”
Just the phrasing of that headline makes it sound like manufactured housing has no energy standards, which is absurd. By law, manufactured housing must perform in a similar manner as conventional housing. Why did the Sierra Club sue over an issue that could keep – per the NAHB priced out study, see the related report linked here – millions of more Americans out of affordable housing? How does that help renters to become affordable homeowners?
Manufactured housing professionals and investors much understand with crystal clarity how the game is being played with weaponized nonprofits and all-too-many court eunuch trade associations in manufactured housing.
See MHARR’s letters and follow up below on that topic, which will be followed by our MHProNews analysis and commentary
Part II. MHARR Letters
February 5, 2020
VIA FEDERAL EXPRESS
Hon. Dan Brouilette
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20585
Re: Manufactured Housing Energy Regulation
Dear Secretary Brouilette:
We are dismayed and shocked to have learned recently that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has entered into a consent decree in litigation styled Sierra Club v. Perry (D.D.C. 1:17-CV-02700, November 21, 2019) (Attachment 1, hereto) that will require DOE to propose inherently discriminatory manufactured housing “energy conservation” standards by May 14, 2021 and enact final standards pursuant to that rulemaking on or before February 14, 2022.
The Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) as the national representative of smaller and medium-sized independent producers of manufactured housing regulated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) pursuant to the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974, as amended by the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 5401, et seq.), has been a longstanding and vociferous opponent of the enactment of any such standards outside of the regulatory framework established by those statutes, which are designed and structured to maintain, protect and advance the inherent affordability of manufactured homes for lower and moderate-income Americans. MHARR’s position on this matter – and its vehement objections to the imposition of DOE energy standards that would undermine the fundamental affordability of HUD Code manufactured housing as mandated by existing law and needlessly exclude millions of Americans from the only type of homeownership that they can afford — is set forth in comments filed with DOE on August 8, 2016, April 26, 2017 and September 17, 2018.
In addition, MHARR, in comments filed with DOE pursuant to President Trump’s Executive Order 13777 (Attachment 2, hereto) and with the White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing (Attachment 3, hereto), has called for the explicit rejection of any such standards as being inherently and fundamentally incompatible with the pre-existing directive of Congress in the 1974 federal manufactured housing law, as amended, for federal manufactured housing standards to “facilitate the availability of affordable manufactured homes and to increase homeownership for all Americans.”
Instead, as MHARR’s comments have consistently shown, previously-proposed DOE manufactured housing “energy” standards (i.e., 2016 and 2018) – railroaded from the start via a fundamentally-flawed and corrupted process manipulated by energy special interests and the largest manufactured housing industry conglomerates — would necessarily, excessively and exponentially increase the cost of manufactured housing with little or no countervailing benefit to consumers over the typical ownership tenure of a HUD Code manufactured home, while excluding disproportionate numbers of potential consumers from the market and imposing crushing new regulatory compliance burdens on smaller industry businesses.
Consequently, we are mystified and, frankly, appalled that DOE, during the administration of President Trump, who from day-one has committed his administration to the reduction and elimination of needless and needlessly-costly federal regulatory burdens both generally (through Executive Orders 13771/13777) and specifically in relation to housing affordability (through Executive Order 13878 and the White House Council – which includes DOE) would: (1) enter into such a consent decree with an anti-business, radical, special interest group such as Sierra Club in the first place; (2) enter into such a consent decree without correcting, or even considering the inherently-flawed process which fundamentally infected this entire proceeding; or (3) enter into such a consent decree without even speaking with MHARR, representing smaller businesses, which are uniquely impacted, harmed and threatened by excessive regulatory mandates. At an absolute minimum, then, DOE must scrap all of its previous process on this matter, go back to the “drawing board,” and conduct a legitimate, credible, and valid rulemaking to totally replace its irretrievably-tainted and illegitimate previous activity in this matter.
The collusive manipulation and abuse of consent decrees by special interests and federal regulators to impose massive new regulatory burdens was a reprehensible and unethical hallmark of the Obama Administration. That it would now be deployed by DOE in this matter, during the Trump Administration is utterly indefensible and unacceptable.
Given these circumstances, we will contact your office to schedule a meeting to further address this pending travesty.
President and CEO
cc: Hon. Mick Mulvaney
Mr. Paul Ray (OIRA)
February 6, 2020
VIA FEDERAL EXPRESS
FOIA Requester Service Center
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Mail Stop MA-90
Washington, D.C. 20585
Re: Freedom of Information Act Request
Dear Sir or Madam:
The Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (“MHARR”) hereby requests, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552 (“FOIA”), that copies of the following documents relating to actions by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in connection with Sierra Club v. Perry, (D.D.C. 1:17-CV-02700) be provided to us:
- Minutes, notes, memoranda, or documents of any kind regarding or reflecting the substance of any meeting(s) between DOE or U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) personnel and Sierra Club personnel, members, agents, attorneys, or other representatives regarding the above-referenced litigation, including, but not limited to meetings on April 23, 2019, May 22, 2019, June 12, 2019 and August 15, 2019, as referenced by Attachment 1 hereto.
- Minutes, notes, memoranda, or documents of any kind reflecting the identity of all participants in each of the meetings referenced in Request No. 1, above and any other meeting(s) or communications addressing the same matter.
- All documents or communications of any kind received from Sierra Club, its personnel, members, agents, attorneys, or any other representative in connection with any of the meetings referenced in Request No. 1, above and any other meeting(s) or communications addressing the same matter.
- All documents or communications of any kind received from any person or entity other than Sierra Club or its representatives in connection with any of the meetings referenced in Request No. 1, above, and any other meeting(s) or communications addressing the same matter.
- All documents or communications of any kind received from any person or entity other than Sierra Club in connection with either the resolution of the above-referenced litigation, or the negotiation or substance of the Consent Decree entered in that litigation on November 21, 2019 (See, Attachment 2, hereto).
- All documents relating to the development and/or negotiation of the Consent Decree referenced in Request No. 5, above.
- All documents reflecting the identity of any DOE and/or DOJ officials who reviewed and/or commented on the Consent Decree referenced in Request No. 5, above, and/or approved the said Consent Decree.
- All documents of any kind relating to the above-referenced litigation and/or the Consent Decree referenced in Request No. 5, above.
- All documents reflecting or relating to the rulemaking status of DOE manufactured housing energy standards pursuant to section 413 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA)
The term “document,” as used herein, includes records of electronic communications and both written and electronic records of telephonic communications and includes all drafts or versions of the identified document(s).
The document(s) requested herein are sought in the public interest concerning the operation and activities of DOE and not primarily for any commercial interest of the requester.
If all or part of this request is denied, please cite each specific FOIA exemption which you contend justifies the said denial and advise us accordingly.
If you have any questions about processing this request, you may contact me during business hours at (202) 783-4087.
Thank you in advance for your assistance.
President and CEO
Part III. Weaponized Nonprofits, Spayed MHI and Affiliate MH State Associations
First, it should be noted that MHARR’s use of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests was recently rewarded. See one example linked here.
Next, where is the MHI equivalent to these actions by MHARR? On February 14, 2020 MHI said this to their readers: “MHI will continue working on behalf of the industry to ensure manufactured housing is a part of the affordable housing solutions being discussed in Washington.” What they failed to mention, and have not yet denied, is the charge that what they claimed credit for was actually MHARR’s work. What a fascinating MHI trick, huh? It is a reminder of what the Modular Home Building Association (MHBA) is also charging MHI with, namely, “deceptive” practices.
The argument could be made that MHI is working on behalf of the industry, but only if ‘the industry’ is being defined as the big boys that want to consolidate manufactured housing into ever fewer hands. That by definition means that all others at the MHI meeting tables are de facto targets for acquistion or destruction.
But let’s pivot to this specific Sierra Club case and the related consent decree.
As MHProNews previously reported, a Warren Buffett funded foundation has for several years been the largest donor to the Tides nonprofit. The Tides nonprofit in turn supports Sierra Club, but also MHAction. MHAction has in turn has attacked the problems in private equity swooping into manufactured home communities. The MHAction co-branded white paper was a cornerstone for much of what the Washington Post, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and other sensational reports that have fueled the call for rent control and other regulations.
Manufactured housing is a good and necessary housing product in an industry with numbers of white hats, but that also has purportedly scheming Machiavellian players. What the evidence suggests is that what Warren Buffett and Michael Bloomberg call “philanthropy” or “charity” are effectively extensions of their business moats. That’s not merely my opinion, there are studies and organizations like E&E Legal that document precisely this kind of weaponized use of nonprofits. Influence Watch, NGO Monitor and Open Secrets are just some of the organizations across the left-right divide that track and report on the activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) or nonprofits that claim to be philanthropic but in fact are promoting specific agendas under the cover of tax exempt status.
The donors to these weaponized groups get a tax break. They are also gaining what Warren Buffett might have meant as a shark in the water of his moat.
There are so many tools that the uber-wealthy have that they can deploy that it would be a full-time task for several professionals to monitor it all. Indeed, Influence Watch, NGO Monitor and Open Secrets are examples that make that point.
What this energy rule would likely do is raise the price of manufactured housing to a point that several million that could qualify for a manufactured home in the absence of the rule, but won’t be able to with the rule. Keep in mind that the big boys have made it plain that ‘built to rent’ is a business model that works for larger firms with deeper pockets, but may not be possible for smaller operations. More to the point, build to rent keeps people trapped in rentals instead of putting them on the path to home ownership.
This is a sinister and cynical tactic. What if anything MHARR will be able to do about this remains to be seen, but unlike MHI they are clearly making this known and are making an effort. And unlike others who claim to publish ‘news’ and ‘updates’ in manufactured housing, this is the type of report that will only be found here on MHProNews. That’s why professionals and investors from firms of all sizes flock here by the thousands daily, while our would be competitors get a few hundred views. See the related reports below for more.
Let’s in fairness note that if someone can keep all of these details straight, that some of what these billionaires fund can be useful – the principle of separating the wheat from the chaff should always be kept in mind. For instance, while George Soros’ political and economic ploys may be harmful, the Open Secrets website he helped fund is a useful tool. Nor is the above to argue that the environment isn’t to be safeguarded. Of course it should be. But this specific lawsuit is misguided at best, or a weaponized attack on affordable housing at worst. Either one is problematic, isn’t it?
MHProNews is your home for straight talk about manufactured housing issues that is backed by evidence.
For those who need a reminder, MHI flip-flopped on this issue, but only after months of pressure from MHARR, this publication and others who relied on facts and reason to debunk their flawed and arguably harmful initial plan.
We can look our readers straight in the eye at events because we produce manufactured housing “Industry News Tips and Views Pros Can Use” © that the opposition is afraid to debate. Here, with facts, evidence and reason-based analysis – “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them. Any third-party images and content are provided under fair use guidelines.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and was recognized with the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he also studied business management with a perfect 4.0 and made the Dean’s List. Tony has earned multiple awards in manufactured housing and in history. He’s a managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
Office 863-213-4090 |Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
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