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Julián Castro is pushing back against the liberal critics accusing him of selling out to Wall Street.
The head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has come under fire recently from left-leaning groups critical that the agency is selling troubled mortgages to hedge funds and other Wall Street interests, a move the critics fear will create another foreclosure crisis.
But Castro, who is widely considered a vice presidential prospect for the Democratic ticket this year, says those concerns have been blown out of proportion.
In an interview with New Yorker Editor-in-Chief David Remnick, Castro acknowledged that private banks have been snapping up the mortgages through HUD's Distressed Asset Stabilization Program (DASP).
But he rejected the notion that the initiative is a gift for banks or a threat to the housing market, arguing instead that the sales are stabilizing the market and preventing foreclosures.
"It's true that a lot of folks that got these, purchased these notes, are private sector actors, banks and so forth," Castro told WNYC Studios’ “The New Yorker Radio Hour.” "But the entire idea of the program, and what the program is aiming at, is to actually keep people in their home."
Castro also took at shot at his liberal critics, comparing them to Tea Party purists who focus on "sloganeering" at the expense of "being thoughtful about policy and actually constructing something that works."
"Just shouting ‘Wall Street,’ sloganeering in a way, does not go to the merits of the program and how it's working and how we can actually improve it," he said.
The explanation likely won't appease critics, who are circulating an online petition that accuses Castro of reneging on earlier promises to use the DASP program to sell troubled mortgage loans to nonprofit community groups, not Wall Street banks.
Instead, the groups say the program has been "a giveaway" to the banks, with 98 percent of the program's mortgages going to Wall Street last year.
"These homes are often sold at steep discounts, averaging 45% off for some of the biggest banks on Wall Street," reads the petition, which was sponsored by nine liberal advocacy groups, including Democracy for America, the Daily Kos, Rootstrikers and Working Families.
"Sign the petition to tell Secretary Castro to stop selling our neighborhoods to Wall Street!"
Castro, while quick to label himself a progressive, warned that liberals risk falling into the same ideological-purity trap that's left conservatives grappling with a presidential race where the top two contenders — Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTexas Dem targets Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 Budowsky: Putin’s KGB super PAC Trump touts affordable childcare plans MORE and Ted CruzTed CruzTexas Dem targets Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 What are 'religious liberty' bills really about? Fiorina calls for special prosecutor for Russia probe MORE — are loathed by large segments of voters, including many Republicans.
"I consider myself a pretty progressive person, and I think I have a track record that shows that. But I'm also not just going to do a policy because it's the liberal thing to do," Castro said.
"I'm going to implement a policy because it's well thought out, and it makes sense, and it's going to help those homeowners, and it's actually going to work."
Castro, a 41-year-old Hispanic Texan, is a top contender to join Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonBudowsky: Putin’s KGB super PAC April Ryan: 'I was in shock' Is America's military effort in the Middle East constitutional? MORE on the Democratic ticket this year. Clinton is on track to win the party's presidential nomination, and the former San Antonio mayor could add valuable diversity to her campaign.
Clinton, though, has also faced a barrage of attacks that she's too cozy with Wall Street. Those attacks have helped propel Bernie SandersBernie Sanders'Morning Joe' co-host: We got into Trump's head Petition calls for Melania Trump to move to White House or pay NY security costs In California race, social justice wing of Democrats finally comes of age MORE and his populist message in the Democratic primary race and will surely be a consideration as Clinton weighs a vice presidential pick.
Addressing the rumors this week, Castro took a humble approach.
He told Remnick, “I do expect to be back in Texas next year.”