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For I'm a jolly good fellow, fellows!Wonkers are all media elites and State Department retirees, so we don’t need to explain to you that a “beat sweetener” is a puff piece about a person, place, or thing meant to guarantee further access down the line. And that seems to be the purpose of this New York Times piece on Mitt Romney selling a house to a couple of Olds. The gauzily written piece, though, seems to promise a lot more heart-warming generosity than actually surfaces. It’s confusing, really, unless the purpose of the piece is to (again) show that Mitt Romney is actually sort of a horrible businessman.

So Romney bought some rent-to-own houses, one for each son, as an investment. (Good thing rent-to-own is never shady.) But then the market crashed, and the rent-to-own houses weren’t worth anything, because Mitt Romney is terrible at business. So after a while, Romney called up the Olds who lived in one of the houses, and offered to sell it to them. And that’s … it?

Oh, right, no, he also got some hefty deductions off the whole thing:

The deal, Mr. Jolly said, was “a marvelous scheme” to help renters who could not qualify for a mortgage to eventually buy their houses, while allowing investors to write off depreciation and mortgage interest on their taxes without risking their own money: most purchases were 100-percent financed with first and second mortgages from Texas banks.

The prospectus for the investment, called the Gem Plan, played up the tax shelter benefits, saying it was structured “so that deductions are projected to be twice the amount of the cash required each year.”

Win-win, obviously.

Mr. Romney borrowed more than $300,000 to buy the properties, according to property records. Rental income covered expenses for a time, but with the market downturn in the 1980s, the deal quickly soured.

Property records show that liens for unpaid community association fees were filed against two of Mr. Romney’s houses and that the mortgages on them were soon underwater. By the end of the decade, the homebuilder who sold the houses to Mr. Romney went bankrupt, and some other investors’ houses were in foreclosure.


So to get out from under these moneypits, Romney offered one of the houses to his renters. And that is the entire story of what a great guy Mitt Romney is, and a marvelous illustration of his unheralded generosity.

No, here’s one thing that might be genuinely nice:

When Mr. Stamps took the call from Mr. Romney, he and his wife, a nurse, had all but given up hope of being able to buy the house they had been renting for five years. Mr. Romney told him it looked like the couple had been taking good care of the property and that “we would be good people to buy it,” said Mr. Stamps.

Or he could have just wanted someone, anyone, to take the “sour” deal off his hands. Anyway, this nice couple has been paying Mitt Romney $600 per month for the past 15 years on their $50,000 mortgage that he personally holds. So, to recap, Mitt Romney is a great guy because he might sell you something that is no longer making him money. The Torah says to do your good deeds in secret; Mitt Romney seems to have really taken the stricture to heart.


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