Our biggest domestic story of the year so far in terms of traffic has been a Dan Wagner report with the Seattle Times which exposes the crisis poor mobile homeowners face when they get in over their heads.
The story, which has surpassed 100,000 page views on the Center’s website, focused largely on Clayton Homes, a company controlled and praised by Warren Buffett. It’s a piece of work that goes to the heart of so much of what we do — tell stories about how the poor end up paying more for everything — from housing to broadband to health care.
The piece is a reflection of the Center’s mission: “To serve democracy by revealing abuses of power, corruption and betrayal of public trust by powerful public and private institutions, using the tools of investigative journalism.”
The American Dream slips further and further away from many of the people whose stories we told in Wagner’s piece.
“I’ve lost everything,” says one of the people in Dan’s story, whose mobile home was worth less than she had borrowed against it only a year later.
It’s a typical story of the poor and financially unsophisticated clients of Clayton Homes, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett’s company. Clayton’s slogan is “opening doors to a better life, one home at a time.”
Clayton has since used the Berkshire Hathaway-owned Omaha World-Herald to accuse us and our partner, the Seattle Times of “misleading reporting” though the company fails to cite any specific instance that backs up its claim. See the company’s statement here.
We will be following up with Clayton, Berkshire Hathaway and with any luck the “Sage of Omaha,” Warren Buffett himself. The billionaire businessman and philanthropist did not return our calls seeking comment.