Word on the street is that HUD Secretary Julian Castro (of the famous Castro brothers) really wants to be the next Vice President. It’s hard to blame him for having that ambition since the media has long since crowned him one of the frontrunners to be Hillary Clinton’s pick. In terms of demographics, the guy has it all with the possible exception of having a Y chromosome. He’s sure to appeal to the Hispanic vote and he’s quite young for a veep pick at 41 so he’s got the whole youth thing going for him. (Which may help a bit with Hillary pushing the seven decade mark.) He’s been the mayor of a substantially large city, providing some executive branch experience on his resume. What’s not to like?

Well, for the progressive wing which is flocking to Bernie Sanders, there are a few things not to like, actually. Chief among them is a HUD program known as the Distressed Asset Stabilization Program (DASP). Critics find a number of flaws in the policies in place under DASP, including the fact that HUD frequently sells off some of the troubled mortgages to Wall Street to get them off their books. (This leads to foreclosures and the other wrinkles which helped lead to the 2007 collapse.) This largely affects lower income and minority borrowers, so that makes him a potential target for liberals. As America Rising reported this week, Secretary Castro seems to have come up with a solution to his little problem. In a move which I’m sure will purely coincidentally make him a more attractive candidate in the veepstakes, he’s getting ready to change that particular mortgage program. And that is leading some observers to claim that he’s abusing the power of his office for his own gain.

[J]ust this morning, Politico reported that Castro is attempting to mollify those angry progressives, and is opening the HUD Secretary up to questions over whether he’s potentially abusing his power as a Cabinet Secretary to do it:

“Targeted by progressive activists hoping to kill his chances of being Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Julián Castro is set this week to announce changes to a hot-button Housing and Urban Development program to sell bad mortgages on its books. The changes, which HUD officials will brief stakeholders and activists on during a conference call on Monday, could be made public as early as Tuesday — depending on when department lawyers give the green light to publishing them in the Federal Register.”

As Politico reports, Castro’s move is aimed at defusing the major issue progressives have with him:

“Castro’s actions could potentially defuse an issue that activists have been using to question his progressive credentials — and he’ll be doing it at the moment the running mate search has begun to get serious at Clinton campaign headquarters.”

In what I’m sure is yet another in a series of totally accidental, coincidental bits of timing, the HUD announcement was rolled out just as a group of progressive activists revealed that they were planning “a full offensive” against Castro. The changes being proposed at HUD look suspiciously like olive branches intended to defuse their complaints. These include requirements for investors to offer to reduce the principal on underwater mortgages and to freeze interest rates for five years. That may sound great to those holding the mortgages, but it’s not exactly sound fiscal policy.

So are these changes supposed to be helping improve the program or enhance Castro’s chances at being Hillary’s running mate? And even if it’s the latter, could it ever be proved? Tough to say, but if he is the veep nominee, expect to hear more about this straight through November.

Julian Castro