We’ve begun to explore on MHLivingNews the connections between past and present U.S. Presidents and mobile and manufactured homes. A prior article on the topic is linked below. Note these are fact-and-evidence based reports, not partisan ones. Affordable living ought to be a nonpartisan issue, because everyone needs a good place to call home.
Before diving into the specifics of Nathan Smith, a partner in SSK Communities, and his ties to President Barack H. Obama, the Clintons, and other political connections, some background on mobile and manufactured homes will be helpful for millions.
The first federally regulated manufactured home was ‘born’ on June 15, 1976. Before then, homes built in the U.S. on a frame we’re called ‘mobile homes.’ Those frames aide transportation of the home to a site, and can provide additional structural support. The distinction between mobile and manufactured homes is about building codes and construction standards. Millions of mobile homes were fine for their era, but there were a number prior to 6.15.1976 that frankly had lower standards. Those are facts, and those mobile homes with a problematic reputation are reasons why the HUD Code for manufactured homes was established. Namely, to assure consumers and businesses of the reliability of enhanced, federally regulated, standardized durability, energy, and safety of those factory-crafted homes.
That’s why modern manufactured homes have developed a good reputation, such as the quote from a detailed report by the National Association of Realtors cited below.
Like any other housing built onsite, perhaps millions of those older mobile homes or early manufactured homes have had updates since they were constructed.
Mainstream media often inaccurately conflate the terms ‘mobile home’ and ‘manufactured home.’ But when you look at the date when Nathan Smith was born, as reported by Cincinnati in the quote below, it is clear that Mr. Smith was indeed a mobile home resident as a child.
With that backdrop, we will look in a few moments at an extended quote from Cincinnati, a USA Today publication. Independent journalist Sharyl Attkisson put together this left-right media bias chart below. Other sources have come to similar conclusions as Ms. Attkisson did. It’s shown here because it reflects that Cincinnati and USA Today have a pro-Democratic party tilt. As a disclosure, this writer is a political independent. We have friends, family, and colleagues who are in either the Democratic or Republican parties, and others who favor a minor party like Libertarian, or have no political affiliation at all.
Here’s the extended quote from Cincinnati, we added the bold and the brown text for direct quotes for clarity and emphasis. But the words themselves are as published on Cincinnati at this link here.
“After Nathan Smith was born, his parents brought him to a single-wide mobile home perched on the side of a mountain in southeastern Kentucky.
Today, the 42-year-old Fort Mitchell resident sells, finances and insures manufactured homes in addition to managing manufactured home communities.
Smith has since leveraged his success in business to become one of the most effective and influential Democratic fundraisers in Kentucky.
“For the last 10 or 12 years, Nathan has probably been the most energetic and committed political and financial backer of Democrats from Northern Kentucky,” Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said. “He is an indefatigable supporter of Democrats.”
Conway, also a Democrat, recalls campaigning in southeastern Kentucky when he heard he needed to meet Smith’s parents in Bimble, a small community outside of Barbourville.
“The next thing I knew, the car was pulling up a little road alongside a junkyard on the side of a hill,” Conway said. “I asked for Nathan’s father and a guy spit out his tobacco and said, ‘You found him.’ ”
Smith has never forgotten the values he learned during his humble upbringing, Conway said.
“Nathan has a big heart,” Conway said. “If he is supporting you, he doesn’t just write you a check. He wants to get his friends behind you. He is one of the best in state at gathering support for you.””
You get the idea. Nathan Smith has written checks to members of both major parties, but he says his heart is with Democrats. You can finish the article about him later on Cincinnati, at this link here.
We’ll note for now, and can document later, that Smith has ties with Clayton Homes and 21st Mortgage, which are manufactured home brands owned by one of the richest people in the world, Warren Buffett led Berkshire Hathaway.
Mr. Buffett also has deep ties to the Obama White House, where his grandson worked. Buffett was a supporter of the Clintons too. Part of that photo collage is former President Bill Clinton with Kevin Clayton of Clayton Homes. A video report on that topic will be part of a future report planned on more presidential connections to manufactured housing.
SSK Communities BBB Rating
MHLivingNews believes in manufactured homes for evidence-based and personal experience reasons.
As an adult, this writer began by moving into an apartment, as did millions of others, after leaving my parents’ home. Later, I lived in conventional single-family housing. I’ve owned brick-facade conventionally built houses in ‘good neighborhoods.’ But I’ve also lived in a pre-HUD Code mobile home, and owned and lived in several manufactured homes over the years, including recent years. So, you might say that I’ve had a full-range of housing experiences. My thoughts reflect fact-based, expert, professional, plus first-hand knowledge.
That said, I’ve long believed that there are in any profession good businesses, and some others who are less ethical. There are professionals who care deeply about their customers, while others sadly seem to care less so.
I’m not judging Nathan, whom I know on a professional basis. I’ve interviewed Nathan on camera, as you’ll see in a video clip well show in another planned report. Nathan can be warm, charming, and funny. He’s ‘successful.’
But here is what the Better Businesses Bureau (BBB) has to say about Nathan Smith led SSK Communities. The screen capture posted below, which reflects the date it was captured. Perhaps by spotlighting the sad “F” rating – along with other charges and allegations against SSK and his firm reflected in these mainstream news videos – they might take some of that money they have and fix whatever is wrong?
As you look at the video interviews about Nathan Smith and SSK Communities, you’ll note that we are not aware of the kinds of organized protests against SSK or Smith by activist resident groups like MHAction, or NMHOA. Why not? We will ask those 2 groups to confirm or clarify that, and will update this post further below if there is an oversight. We’re all about accuracy.
As you can see from this next screen capture, Smith-led SSK also has “rip-off reports” online too.
There was at least one class action lawsuit against SSK.
Here are two of several videos about SSK, the one above includes Nathan Smith in their video.
It is worth noting that after our sister-trade-media site, MHProNews published a report on that lawsuit against SSK, not long after, news of that class action seemed to vanish from mainstream media reports. Coincidence? Did they settle the case? That report can be seen at the link below, which can be read later, as desired.
Often, lawsuit case settlements involve an agreement by the parties to not disclose (NDA) the terms and/or to no longer discuss the complaints with the news media. Could it be that SSK’s partners did not want to be embarrassed in front of their peers?
Frank Rolfe and his partners in RV Horizons and MHU have been protested by MHAction. While they too are controversial, they are also known for investing in and improving the communities they buy. Why hasn’t MHAction done similar protests against Nathan Smith, or SSK Communities?
Rolfe told MHProNews that the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) was showing blatant hypocrisy by having Smith as their chairman, given the allegations and controversies that surrounded him and SSK Communities. Rolfe went further by saying that Smith/SSK has made others in the industry look bad. While Rolfe’s RV Horizon’s has some problematic reviews online, they have as of this morning an A+ Rating with the BBB. Frank has told me that when they have a problem, they fix it. The BBB report seems to confirm Rolfe’s claim.
These are examples of why MHLivingNews encourages home and community shoppers to do their homework. Manufactured homes are proven to be a good value. There are fine land-lease communities where owners do what they promise.
But then there are cases – like SSK?! – where bad news follows them, and the bad news appears to be on-going. Like any, product, service, or business, there are operations that earn a good reputation, while others manage to win a troubled one. It’s happened in conventional housing, the story below is just one possible example.
It is wise to keep a ‘bad apple’ from causing you or a friend from missing out on all the ‘good apples.’ See related reports further below, or surf-this-site for numerous examples of video interviews with home owners that are happy with their home and community.
Why This Nathan Smith/SSK/Presidential Connections Report Now?
There are several reasons to bring up SSK’s Nathan Smith at this time. One is because he remains a mover-and-shaker at the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI). He was MHI’s prior chairman. Smith, MHI, and MHI PAC are all busily trying to help shape the 2018 midterms.
As noted, Smith and SSK have considerable ties to Warren Buffett led Berkshire Hathaway owned Clayton Homes, and 21st Mortgage Corp. More on that in an upcoming report.
As or more revealing, Smith has ties to former President Barack Obama, Secretary Hillary Clinton, and is an active, long-time Democratic supporter. Various key U.S. Senate, gubernatorial, and other races will be influenced by Smith’s campaign support.
That’s very much in keeping with what Cincinnati reported.
Smith’s support has included, but is not limited to, Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN). According to federal filings, both Brown and Donnelly have reportedly received MHI PAC funds.
SSK’s leader is quoted by MHI as saying, “The Manufactured Housing Institute Political Action Committee (MHI-PAC) is the only federally-registered PAC dedicated to supporting bipartisan federal candidates who support manufactured and modular housing as an essential homeownership option. MHI-PAC allows MHI members from every segment of the industry to pool permissible, voluntary personal financial contributions to support federal candidates for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. Thank you to all MHI-PAC contributors who are advancing our industry’s dedication to providing affordable, quality homes and financing to all families.”
— Nathan Smith, Chairman of the MHI-PAC and Partner at SSK Communities
That’s an interesting commentary by Smith. It will be explored further in an upcoming report.
We’ll draw this profile to a close by saying that it is important to look beyond words to deeds. There are people with terrific personalities, who nevertheless behave differently than they project to the public. That sadly happens in politics, and in business too.
Note that Cincinnati article about Nathan Smith failed to mention these issues about Smith and SSK.
There are arguably thousands of good locations and businesses in manufactured housing today. Before a person makes a judgement about where to live or who to buy from, it is obvious that more than one source of information can prove useful.
Allegations against politically-connected Nathan Smith and SSK Communities have been for years, and still are this year, in the news.
Everyone in the industry who develops a bad BBB and/or other reputation, in our editorial view, should fix the problems that sparks negative mainstream media reports, litigation, regulatory, or other investigations.
Millions of otherwise happy manufactured home owners and thousands of good business locations sadly suffer from the impression that some ‘bad actors’ generates. Third-party research proves the satisfaction and value of modern manufactured homes. But you still have to be prudent in who you do business with. “We Provide, You Decide.” ©. ## (Lifestyle, news, human interest, flashback, affordable housing news, analysis, and commentary.)
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L. A. “Tony” Kovach and his wife Soheyla co-founded and publish the manufactured home industry’s two leading trade media; Manufactured Home Living News (MHLivingNews.com) and MHProNews.com for business professionals and investors. Kovach’s work has been featured in publications such as the Washington D.C.’s The Hill, Value Penguin, Chicago Sun Times, and a host of other media. He’s been involved in the manufactured home industry as a manager, retail center owner, consultant and publisher for over 25 years. Kovach has likely interviewed more industry professionals, experts, and manufactured home owners, than anyone in U.S. news media.