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The Brief: Aug. 10, 2012

A Texas couple's mortgage has added another layer of complexity to Mitt Romney's much-debated business record.

Mitt Romney arrives at a debate site in Hanover, N.H., on Oct. 11, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

A Texas couple's mortgage has added another layer of complexity to Mitt Romney's much-debated business record.

Though Romney's work as the head of the private equity firm Bain Capital has dominated news coverage of his professional history, details of a lesser-known deal Romney made in Texas real estate in the 1980s have surfaced, lending more insight into the presidential candidate's business practices.

As The New York Times reports, Romney, before founding Bain Capital, entered the booming Texas real estate market in 1982, buying five rent-to-own homes in the Houston area. But the housing bubble soon burst, leaving Romney with a loss and one couple, Timothy and Betty Stamps, unable to qualify for a mortgage on their Missouri City home, which they'd rented from Romney.

"Then I got this phone call, personally, from Mr. Romney, asking if we really wanted to buy the house," Timothy Stamps told the Times. "I said, yes we did. And he said he would loan us the money. He really helped us when we needed it."

The couple continues to write $600 checks to Romney every month to pay down the $50,500 mortgage.

As the TimesMike McIntire writes, "While the Stampses’ happy ending is a counterpoint to the image, seized upon by political opponents, of Mr. Romney as a cold, calculating financier, the episode also offers an early illustration of his appetite for deals promising low risk and high return."

The real estate deal isn't Romney's only Texas connection, though. As The Dallas Morning News reported last month, Romney helped arrange a merger in 1988 between two retailers that produced the chain Stage Stores. Although Bain scored huge profits from the merger, Stage declared bankruptcy a few years after Bain had sold its stake in the chain. Mirroring the broader debate over Romney's history at Bain, Democratic groups have slammed Romney and the firm for profiting from the deal, while Romney's defenders say he likely saved jobs.


  • The San Antonio City Council on Thursday unanimously passed an initiative backed by Mayor Julián Castro that would raise the city's sales tax by an eighth of a cent to fund full-day kindergarten for low-income children. The proposal — which has the support of the education community and business leaders but faces opposition from Republicans — will now go before voters in November. 
  • The state has left inaccurate information about the state's embattled Women's Health Program in court documents, according to The Dallas Morning News. Though Texas so far has rejected federal funding offered by the Affordable Care Act, the state said in legal documents that it would rely on the law to foot the bill for the Women's Health Program, which was caught in the middle of controversy earlier this year over Republicans' attempts to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.
  • Dallas County on Thursday declared a public health emergency over a West Nile virus epidemic. The virus so far this year has infected more than 150 county residents and killed nine, and neighboring counties have also reported deaths. Fogging trucks continue to spray insecticide throughout the county, but an effort to start aerial spraying was rejected.


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