Friday, March 25, 2011


Earlier today, Adam Serwer published a story speculating that Tim Pawlenty is going to have trouble in the GOP primaries because, as governor, he supported a program that made it easier for Muslims to finance homes in a sharia-compliant way:

... In 2004, then-Gov. Pawlenty urged the Minnesota Housing Financing Agency to partner with local groups and businesses in an effort to increase minority homeownership in the state.... The MHFA decided to partner with a local group, the African Development Center, in "developing culturally sensitive products," that would allow Muslims to enter the market. According to MHFA spokesperson Megan Ryan, the effort fizzled, in part because the ADC wasn't able to find interested homebuyers. "I don't know if it was that point in the economy," Ryan said. "for whatever reason the program never took off."

Pawlenty's effort to increase minority homeownership by encouraging companies to offer Sharia-compliant mortgages was entirely in keeping with his reputation as a "Sam's Club Republican" concerned with helping "regular people." But in the 2012 race, he'll be up against competitors who may try to use it against him....

Horrified that this came out, Pawlenty and his people raced to Politico's Ben Smith, who now obligingly informs us that "Pawlenty shut down Islam-friendly mortgage program":

... a Pawlenty spokesman told me that the governor has no intention of defending the program -- and that in fact, he shut it down himself as soon as he learned of it.

"This program was independently set up by the Minnesota state housing agency and did not make any mention Sharia Law on its face, but was later described as accommodating it," the spokesman, Alex Conant, said. "As soon as Gov. Pawlenty became aware of the issue, he personally ordered it shut it down. Fortunately, only about three people actually used the program before it was terminated at the Governor's direction."

Pawlenty's objection: "The United States should be governed by the U.S. Constitution, not religious laws," Conant said.

Er, except that Minnesota Public Radio ran a story about the program in 2009, which made clear that the program did, in fact, help potential homebuyers work around Islamic proscriptions against interest. What's more, MPR now informs us that Team Pawlenty's account of the shutdown isn't really accurate:

...Is that what really happened? A program was a little too friendly toward Islam and had to be shut down? Not exactly.

"The new markets program was running for about a year and it happened at the same time a credit crunch hit the country," Megan Ryan, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, told MPR's Jess Mador today. "The program had only three loans. There was a lot of interest, but many of the borrowers weren't credit ready. In conversations with the governor's office at the same time that the program wasn't being very successful, we did close the pilot program down and shift the funds to other loan programs."

Ryan said had there been better interest, "we would've looked at continuing the program, there was such limited volume, we thought it better to shift to programs that reached more Minnesotans." ...

Poor Tim Pawlenty -- as governor he hated Muslims way less than he wishes he did now.

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