The comments period for the Trump Administration’s Executive Orders numbered 13771 and 13777 to the Department of Energy (DOE) is closed, but the manufactured home industry fireworks may just now be starting.
Yesterday, the Daily Business News reported on MHI’s input to the DOE’s RFI. A new set of comments, that provided the “SCANDALOUS” quote above, will follow.
But first, there’s value to the industry, investors and other interested parties to understand how MHI allegedly operates, beginning with their own words.
Quoting MHI, “On July 14, 2017, MHI submitted comments to the Department of Energy (DOE) regarding proposed regulations for the manufactured housing industry that should be withdrawn because they are not consistent with President Trump’s Executive Orders to reduce federal regulatory burdens.”
This writer added, “Analytically, that statement may be accurate.”
But What Wasn’t Said is That a Serious Flip-Flop by MHI’s of Their Prior Position had Taken Place
What wasn’t said by MHI, that was – and is – a key part of the story. The other key? That the umbrella national association has repeatedly taken starting positions on issues such as DTS, or this issue – the DOE’s proposed energy rules – and then the association has shifted.
A Quick Look at MHARR’s Position and Then…
MHARR describes the DOE proposed rule “a paradigm of over-reaching, oppressive and costly big government regulation that [if enacted] would disproportionately harm [moderate and] lower-income Americans … and crush smaller industry businesses, leading to a further decrease in homeownership, higher levels of homelessness, and an emasculation of free-market competition….”
But let’s return to the analysis of
- MHI’s flip-flop,
- their periodic surrogates in such matters,
- and what the possible motivations are,
- mindful of what Marty Lavin says, “follow the money,” and “pay more attention to what people do than what they say.”
MHI’s Shift, a Complete Flip-Flop?
MHI tends not to admit their shifts.
But based upon facts coming from the Small Business Administration, George Washington University, the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR), this publication and others — MHI essentially relented on the DOE rules — and took what now is an apparently more useful position for the industry.
But why did MHI have to be dogged into the shift? Why did the first embrace what they now claim to oppose?
An analytical thinker must ask three questions.
- ‘Why did MHI take a problematic position for the industry in the first place?’
- ‘How is it that they seem to get away with it, before being pushed by facts into a more moderate position?’
- ‘Wouldn’t implementing those DOE rules that MHI initially promoted – as MHARR says – raised prices, harmed smaller communities, independent retailers and independent producers of manufactured housing?
Part Time, Full Time – MHI’s Alleged Surrogates
Richard A. “Dick” Jennison has for some years used a group of so-called surrogates, so that he and those who support their position don’t always have to be up front, by themselves.
The surrogate effect can create the impression of consensus, when no clear understanding – much less consensus – exists.
A classic example of an MHI surrogate is Suzanne Felber and her ‘American Housing Advocates.’ Her site might as well be called, ‘Promote MHI’ – (and those at MHI who like to cozy up to the power base?) – central.
Felber may not realize how Jennison and his allies can use a surrogate, and then allegedly – per multiple informed MHI sources – back stab said surrogate, without even blinking.
But that aside, Felber falls into the common trap of overstating her case.
In the faint type used on her website, as shown above, she claims there is “Unanimous” support for the “wonderful job” “MHI staff, “under the leadership of President and CEO Dick Jennison” are doing.
“Wonderful?” “Unanimous?” The proof that isn’t true is MHI Frank Rolfe’s quote immediately below Felber’s. Rolfe is far from alone.
The Surprise MHI Surrogate?
The periodically public spitball fight between George F. Allen, a co-founder of MHI’s National Community Council (NCC) and MHI is no secret. Any beyond his devoted followers who care to read his blog for a day will find plenty of examples.
While one can make the case that there is no love lost between Allen and MHI, nevertheless, Allen has signaled once more that he is de facto providing cover for MHI.
Skeptics may say, that’s absurd. Allen, they might say, ‘hates’ MHI.
But several of Allen’s followers, periodically send this publication occasionally revealing tidbits.
For example, why does Allen:
- Say he’s holding MHI accountable, and yet does fund raising for MHI’s causes at his annual meeting?
- Or, why does Allen conflate MHI and MHARR – as if the two organizations are the same, when they are demonstrably quite different?
Per MHI’s website,
“Who we are
The Manufactured Housing Institute is the only national trade organization representing the factory-built housing industry.”
MHI is the national trade organization representing all segments of the factory-built housing industry.”
By contrast, on the base of MHARR’s press release, one finds the following.
“The Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform is a Washington, D.C.-based national trade association representing the views and interests of independent producers of federally-regulated manufactured housing.”
With respect to Mr. Allen, and his ‘analysis’ of MHI and MHARR, there are only a few logical possibilities.
Mr. Allen has
- never read the above,
- read it, but he failed to understand it,
- or – he wants to blur the facts for some unstated reason.
Are we missing anything in those 3 bullets points above? Maybe some combination of the three?
MHARR vs. MHI
Be it DOE, DTS, or other issues that MHARR takes a position on, MHARR’s basic approach is the same. They gather facts, formulate a position and document their thinking in a release to their members and all others that care to examine them.
It wasn’t MHI’s position that the SBA and George Washington University essentially agreed with, rather, it was MHARR’s.
Ironically, it is Allen himself who likes to call MHI an “OLIGARCHY”
One of several examples is this Allen headline, “OLIGARCHY = national MH advocacy?”
For those who advise this publication that there is no point in spotlighting Allen, or Felber or others like them. Those voices tell MHProNews, ‘you’ll never convince them, or their core supporters.’
While someone’s core supporters that might indeed be – loyalist vs. realists – it is the objective thinker that must be sought out. Those reason-based readers, those investors, those public officials and others are worth addressing. Some of those – without a periodic reminder – may not realize the inconsistencies that exist, how the MHI game is played, and how their surrogates allegedly play that game, and why.
Nor is any disrespect meant to those who in good faith follow Felber, Allen or anyone else. They may have personal reason for doing so.
But to paraphrase Allen, “a rumor is afoot,” and that rumor claims that Allen and MHI are either in talks to buy him out, or some sort of deal may already be made (Publisher’s Note, please see Update, below). Note that a direct question to Allen and some of his supporters drew no response to that question, while other recent questions to Allen have brought a prompt response.
Doesn’t that fit Allen’s published motto, “‘U Support US & WE Serve U!”
MHARR’s Position on DOE
That long tee up for MHARR’s position is useful for because there are reasons why what has been taking place is “Scandalous,” as their president and CEO – Mark, Weiss, JD – has written.
What is the scandal?
That MHI – in their view – kept the DOE proposal alive, about two years ago, when sources tell MHProNews that MHARR had already effectively stopped it.
MHI members were told at members-only meetings, say sources, why the proposed DOE rule was going to be so good for the industry.
MHI Surrogates were lined up to cheer the effort.
Much smaller MHARR had only facts and a tiny fraction of the MHI budget. But they stated their case, over and over, while third parties – such as SBA and GWU or those in the industry – began making a similar case.
Again, MHARR’s position is posted at this link here. ## (News, Analysis.)
Disclosure: MHARR is at this time an advertiser, and MHI was previously an advertiser. MHProNews has often taken the MHARR view, even when MHProNews’ publisher was an elected MHI board member. Long time MHProNews readers know that our position on issues tend not to shift, based one which operations does or does not pay for ads. MHProNews’ publisher has worked for years (thanks to the support of pro-growth, pro-industry image building sponsors and clients) to work for positive change within MHI, and the ‘powers that be’ allegedly did not like having a differing point of view, for more, click here.
Note 1: The MHProNews publisher – L. A. “Tony” Kovach has offered to do a live, video recorded debate with MHI President Richard A “Dick” Jennison and Lesli Gooch on the issues that face the industry, neither of whom have taken up that offer.
Note 2: Ishbel Dickens, NMHOA and her then VP, Carla Burr, were also invited to do a live, video recorded debate over the issues that face manufactured housing. That offer too has not been accepted.
Preview: Watch for a follow up report on the allegations that activist-minded resident groups are planning to target the MHI annual meeting with protests, designed in part to grab media attention and embarrass member attendees caught on video or pictures by media.
Publisher’s Update 7.19.2017 at 10:01 AM ET. 6 hours after our initial inquiry, and after we published the above, George F. Allen, sent his first reply, quoting verbatim and lower case as he sent it, “nope.”
Several other messages went back and forth, asking Allen to clarify the issues relating to his writing about MHI and MHARR, or other topics addressed in the article above. In each case, he declined to reply directly, but rather, provided series of what we as trade publishers will alleged were “ad hominems.” He ducked, dodged, detracted, delayed, but would not reply directly to how he addresses the MHI and MHARR matter, or others noted above.
In fairness to Allen, he did reply, which MHI did not.
Among the statements Allen made, “There really isn’t anything to say. This is a non-starter. Though a direct, dues-paying member of MHI, I rarely talk to anyone there; they barely talk to me.”
“I was using the word ‘fabricating’ in regards to my present and near future plans relative to COBA7, a division of GFA Management, Inc., dba PMN Publishing; NOT in regards to MHI & MHARR.” Analyzing that, Allen does not deny there is an issue in how he writes on MHI and MHARR, but he will not address it, nor their use of surrogates, or other elements of the report above. While posturing on our inquiry about his plans to sell, calling that a “fabricating” – some sources who follow his writing – (we do not as a rule) – point to Allen’s own writing as suggesting his desire to sell, as he is making ongoing efforts to retire.
The source of the rumor that we legitimately asked about…in a real sense…is Allen himself.
Allen strongly denies he is trying to sell his COBA 7 to MHI or anyone. After repeated efforts at allowing him to clarify why he writes as he does about MHI and MHARR, he would not provide a more substantive response than the one quoted above.
Thus, let the facts of the report above stand, as hereby updated. ###
(Image credits are as shown above, and when provided by third parties, are shared under fair use guidelines.)
Submitted by Soheyla Kovach to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.com.