Foreclosure Fraud Activist Lisa Epstein Runs for Clerk of Courts in Palm Beach County
“I have been warned that political campaigns can get very dirty and ugly. I’m just going to prepare the best I can but focus on my mission and my goal… I didn’t even consider giving up.”
By: David Dayen
It’s a quiet story that most progressive groups operating out of Washington, DC don’t want to talk about: they can’t attract votes anymore. In two recent primary races, in Illinois and Maryland, the more liberal candidate was overwhelmed by the establishment, despite widespread support from labor and online progressive groups. Since a high-water mark in 2006, when netroots activists helped to defeat Joe Lieberman in a Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut, that netroots coalition has absorbed loss after loss. They strike no fear in the hearts of the establishment, because they have proven time and again to be utterly incapable of challenging them. They cannot win even reliably liberal seats at the Congressional level. And so the establishment, confident in their dominance, stops listening to their complaints.
There are lots of reasons for this. Matt Stoller goes over some of them. The current organizers have failed at their tasks, sure. The triviality of progressive media – with their primary focus on a foregone conclusion of a GOP primary election for the last six months rather than building progressive power – and the end of the blogosphere is another major reason. Democratic fecklessness has tarnished a progressive brand with few victories to talk up. A poverty of imagination and new ideas, rather than recycling old ideas from the Heritage Foundation that might just pass Congress, tends to alienate.
But another reason is that these netroots groups may have simply aimed too high. Having demonstrated a total inability to move votes for federal races, they need to regroup, start over, and find ways for whatever it is they bring to the table to have an impact.
Fortunately, that process is happening organically, and without the albatross of groups who have forgotten how to succeed. A small band of foreclosure fraud fighters in Florida, ground zero for the housing crisis, decided to get involved in public service at one of the most basic levels possible. These activists want to become the public official who tracks the transfer of mortgages in their respective counties. Sometimes this is called a register of deeds, or recorder of deeds, or a clerk of court. It’s traditionally a backwater for legacy types who, if they’re lucky, never get their name in the papers. But since the foreclosure fraud crisis, a few of these registers of deeds have shown real leadership in exposing criminal fraud in the mortgage document process. Inspired by their efforts, one of the leading foreclosure fraud activists in the nation, Lisa Epstein, is running for office.
“We are allowing an erosion of everything America holds dear,” Epstein told me in a phone interview from Palm Beach County, Florida, where she will challenge a two-term incumbent for Clerk of Court in a Democratic primary on August 14. “Not just property rights, due process rights – a right guaranteed by the Constitution – and basic fairness. But contract rights. The idea that when you make a contract with a party with superior power and influence, they can’t just make things up and lie, especially when an essential need of survival is at stake. Putting myself at risk is not as important as standing up and saying it was wrong.”
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