State Democrats call Rossi a 'foreclosure profiteer'

A Web video produced by state Democrats accuses Dino Rossi of being a "foreclosure profiteer."

What the video says: “Foreclosure profiteer” flashes on the screen in front of a picture of Rossi. As more pictures of Rossi and foreclosed homes appear, voices say:

“You’re in a strange business where your gain is really somebody else’s pain. ... They’re really ripping people off out there. Who are these people and what are their tactics? ... This is a massive epidemic of theft that is destroying communities.”

There are also headlines about Rossi speaking at a “foreclosure conference” and footage from a KIRO-TV interview of Rossi where he’s presumably being asked about the conference. (To view the video, see this post on the Political Buzz blog, blog.thenewstribune.com/politics.

In a news release that went out with the video, Democrats said Rossi reported making $1,001-$2,500 in rental income from the formerly foreclosed Voss/Aros Apartments and $16,000 for “speaking at seminars where he offered advice on how to profit off the foreclosure market.”

What Rossi says: Rossi spokeswoman Mary Lane Strow told the National Journal’s Hotline that buying the apartments created jobs. “Dino and his partners bought the properties from the bank and put $700,000 into finishing the buildings,” she said. “They employed more than 25 people to finish the job.”

The facts: Rossi reported the rental income and speaking fees on his personal financial disclosures.

Rossi’s real estate firm, Coast Equity Partners, bought the Voss/Aros Apartments for 45 cents on the dollar after the apartments in Ballard were foreclosed upon, Hotline reported.

He surely bought the property with hopes of making money, though it’s not clear from the disclosure reports that he has yet.

Does that make him a profiteer? Webster’s defines profiteer as “one who makes what is considered an unreasonable profit especially on the sale of essential goods during times of emergency.” We don’t yet know whether Rossi will recoup his investment, let alone make an “unreasonable” profit.

The video’s quotes about “ripping people off” and “destroying communities” appear to come from CNN interviews about scams targeting homeowners facing foreclosure.

No one has accused Rossi of fraud in connection with a foreclosure deal, yet the quotes are juxtaposed with his pictures and sound as though they’re talking about him.

Rossi spoke at seminars that included advice on buying foreclosed properties. Based on a Publicola report on the speech, Rossi himself seems to have stuck to general real-estate advice rather than giving “advice on how to profit off the foreclosure market.”

It’s worth noting that the obvious alternative to someone buying a foreclosed property and fixing it up is for it to stay on the market, where its disrepair is likely to bring down the values of properties around it. Do Democrats think foreclosed property shouldn’t be bought?

“Not necessarily,” party spokeswoman Sadie Weiner said, “but I think it’s an important question to be asked if Washington families are losing their homes and Dino Rossi is being opportunistic in profiting off of that crisis.”

Bottom line: The video is based upon a truth, that Rossi has dealt in foreclosed property, but several aspects of the video and the news release that backs it up are misleading.