This week’s Republican National Convention has taken place in the Q, which is short for the Quicken Loans Arena. We take a look at billionaire owner of Quicken Loans, Dan Gilbert. Gilbert owns casinos, is facing a pending lawsuit and has a reputation for launching attacks on journalists. Award-winning journalist Matt Taibbi explains that Quicken Loans, one of the country’s largest mortgage companies, was a “symbol” of the subprime mortgage crisis that decimated cities like Cleveland. We are joined by Peter Pattakos, Ohio attorney and publisher of the sports website Cleveland Frowns.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to turn right now to look at a billionaire who owns casinos, facing a pending lawsuit, and has a reputation for launching attacks on journalists. No, we’re not talking about Donald Trump. We’re talking about Dan Gilbert, owner of Quicken Loans. Now, this week’s Republican National Convention has taken place in what’s called the Q. That’s short for the Quicken Loans Arena. As award-winning journalist Matt Taibbi explains, Quicken Loans is one of the country’s largest mortgage companies, was a “symbol” of the subprime mortgage crisis that decimated cities like Cleveland.
MATT TAIBBI: Well, the irony of that is, of course, lost on the press corps, which, you know, characteristically has this remarkable lack of self-awareness about a lot of things. You know, Quicken was kind of—one of the symbols of the subprime crisis. They’ve now sort of reinvented themselves with Rocket Mortgage, which is like a subcompany of theirs, as far as I understand. And there are people in the—on Wall Street who are telling you—who will tell you that the same problems with asset bubbles in the real estate markets are growing. This was like—you know, Cleveland was one of the ground zeros of the foreclosure crisis. But we’re not here to cover that.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone. But that’s just the beginning of the story of Quicken Loans and its chairman, Dan Gilbert. For more, we’re joined by Peter Pattakos, an Ohio attorney, publisher of the sports website Cleveland Frowns.
We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Peter. Talk about who Dan Gilbert is, and talk about Quicken Loans.
PETER PATTAKOS: Well, he’s obviously a self-made billionaire, who came up in the mortgage bubble. He rode the mortgage bubble, and now he is one of the largest landowners and most powerful citizens, not just in Cleveland, but also in Detroit. So he has a—he has a loop in these two large Great Lakes cities. And even if you gave him the benefit of the doubt on the predatory lending, on Quicken Loans and the allegations of predatory lending and the mortgage fallout, assuming that those were forces beyond anyone’s control and he just happened to be in the right place at the right time, so to speak, there are still plenty of issues beyond that, beyond the predatory lending, that are very concerning about Dan Gilbert.
And the first one, in my mind, is the lack of accountability that he has around town, especially—I can speak for Cleveland, but also in Detroit, the way that there are just so few people, so few politicians that will stand up to him. He seems to get everything he wants, and nobody seems to be able to say anything to him to the contrary, including some very questionable things like a huge $300 million subsidy on cigarettes and alcohol that went right into his and his fellow pro sports—Cleveland pro sports owners’ pockets. And he did that without ever opening his books and explaining just how much profit he took out of this public trust. And no local politician ever even asked him to. So we ended up having to have a citizen-led campaign against that. And it was a ballot issue. And there was not a single prominent politician, not a single councilman, no elected official in Ohio above a few local mayors in the inner ring working-class suburbs.
AMY GOODMAN: He changed the Ohio Constitution?
PETER PATTAKOS: There’s another one. There’s another one. And he did it after Ohio voters had rejected it twice before, by narrow margins. But it’s very hard not to think that while the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that he owns, is successful, he’s bombarding the airwaves with “vote yes on Issue 3.” And as LeBron James played well, people felt good about Dan Gilbert, and they passed the casino referendum by a narrow margin. And it’s very interesting how the good feelings about Dan Gilbert get conflated with or even probably replace an analysis of the words that he actually says.
AMY GOODMAN: The Department of Justice has launched an investigation into Quicken Loans? And talk about the significance of the RNC, the Republican National Convention here, being in the Quicken Loans Arena. It’s not just branded, right? Dan Gilbert runs the Quicken Loans Arena.
PETER PATTAKOS: Right. And I just read the other day that Dan Gilbert will be making more money than anyone off of this convention, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: How?
PETER PATTAKOS: Just from the rental of the arena and his, I understand—someone said the bulk of the profits would be going to Quicken Loans.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, it’s interesting, because we’ve been talking to a lot of the shop owners here in downtown Cleveland, set aside the poorer communities in the outlying areas, and they are devastated by this week. Their businesses have almost come to a halt.
PETER PATTAKOS: I’ve experienced the same thing. I’ve spoken with people who have said the same thing, and that’s consistent with my observation. So, it raises a lot of questions about just who is benefiting here, just who—you have the big barriers between the citizens and Quicken Loans Arena, and almost a big barrier of analysis of what is being said in that arena and what people really think about it. It’s just that they have such a big megaphone.
AMY GOODMAN: Dan Gilbert’s relationship with the press? I mean, we’re talking about Donald Trump, the new—well, no longer do we use the word “presumptive” nominee, but the Republican presidential nominee. There’s a number of interesting parallels. Among them, you know, journalists have been banned from Donald Trump’s press conferences. They couldn’t ban them from the RNC, because it’s run by the House TV and Senate TV/Radio Gallery. But Dan Gilbert’s relationship with journalists?
PETER PATTAKOS: It’s well known. These stories have been reported time and time again. When anyone in a local paper writes something critical of Dan Gilbert, he will place an angry phone call, at least one angry phone call. And it has certainly had a chilling effect, in my opinion. And I always go back to the example of the sports subsidy. They bombed the airwaves with $3 million worth of advertising. And their tagline was “Keep Cleveland strong.” And this was at a time when the consensus was that Cleveland schools were the worst in the nation. Our infant mortality rate was the worst in the nation. Inequality is as bad here as it is anywhere. And we’re also one of the most economically segregated cities. And he’s saying, at this same time, that we should keep Cleveland strong by giving him $300—him and his fellow owners $300 million, when they don’t tell us why they need it. It’s quite stunning. And it reminds me of “Make America great again,” in a way. How do we expect him really to do that? And what is he saying about how he’s going to do that? It just makes no sense.
AMY GOODMAN: Peter Pattakos, I want to thank you for being with us, Ohio attorney, publisher of the sports website Cleveland Frowns.