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The Corner

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‘The Mitt Nobody Sees’



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Mitt Romney may not be the worst human being ever, reports the New York Times:

 

Nearly lost among the blizzard of hedge funds, thoroughbred horses and other gold-plated investments in Mitt Romney’s personal financial disclosures, the interest from the $50,500 mortgage is loose change to Mr. Romney, whose net worth has been estimated at close to a quarter-billion dollars.

Yet for the Stampses, who have been writing $600 monthly checks to “Willard M. Romney” for 15 years, the money they borrowed from him to buy their home in 1997 was life-changing.

Lured by the prospect of buying five rent-to-own houses in the Houston suburbs without putting up any of his own money, Mr. Romney jumped into a speculative deal geared toward “affluent free enterprise capitalists who desire a quality investment with tax shelter benefits,” according to a prospectus. Based on frothy assumptions of a never-ending real estate boom, it was unlike the data-driven, analytical investments that came to define his later successes at Bain Capital.

The result was a rare Romney flop: The housing market soon collapsed, and he was stuck renting out the houses for years before unloading them, mostly at a loss, in the late 1990s, according to property records. The renters were offered the first chance to buy, but the Stampses could not qualify for a mortgage, recalled Mr. Stamps, who at the time had recently lost his job at an oil company.

“Then I got this phone call, personally, from Mr. Romney, asking if we really wanted to buy the house,” Mr. Stamps, 63, said in an interview the other day at the barbershop he now runs. “I said, yes we did. And he said he would loan us the money. He really helped us when we needed it.”

Romney has a long history of helping people out without fanfare, and it’s interesting how he hasn’t tried to exploit that history at all for the campaign. (The Romney campaign wouldn’t comment to the Times on this story, which seems par for the course: Romney just won’t highlight his personal good deeds.) In The Real Romney, Boston Globe writers Michael Kranish and Scott Helman detail several incidents of kindness from Romney. For instance, Romney once noticed that a friend of his, Grant Bennett, was missing from a meeting of Mormon leaders; he ended up going over to Bennett’s house, after hearing that Bennett had fallen off a ladder when trying to remove a hornet’s nest from his home’s exterior. Romney didn’t merely extend his condolences — that night, he returned to Bennett’s home, and removed the hornet nest. 

“Everyone who has known Romney in the church community seems to have a story like this, about him and his family pitching in to help in ways big and small,” write Kranish and Helman. “They took chicken and asparagus soup to sick parishioners. They invited unsettled Mormon transplants to their home for lasagna.” 

When a family in the church was struggling financially (due to a six-figure loan, not being paid back, given to another church member), Romney offered to help negotiate. But he also offered to give the family struggling financial assistance and to help the wife find a job. And there there is this act of kindness:

Romney’s acts of charity extended beyond just the church community. After his friend and neighbor Joseph O’Donnell lost a son, Joey, to cystic fibrosis — he died in 1986 at age twelve — Romney helped lead a community effort to build Joey’s Park, a playground at Winn Brook School in Belmont. “There he was, with a hammer in his belt, the Mitt nobody sees,” O’Donnell said. Romney didn’t stop there. About a year later, it became apparent that the park would need regular maintenance and repairs. “The next thing I know, my wife calls me up and says, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but Mitt Romney is down with a bunch of Boy Scouts and kids and they’re working on the park,’ ” said O’Donnell, who coached some of Romney’s sons in youth sports. “He did it for like the next five years, without ever calling to say, ‘We’re doing this,’ without a reporter in tow, not looking for any credit.”

I doubt we’re going to see much — or any — of this ever highlighted by the campaign.



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