Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Santorum Exposed AGAIN ...

How Santorum paid for his Va. house...and his Starbucks coffee
See original article, picture of the house and active links...http://www.pnionline.com/dnblog/attytood/archives/002807.html

Last spring, I wrote a post that was highly critical of a New York Times Magazine profile of Sen. Rick Santorum. We thought the piece overplayed his "spiritual" side, and overlooked some inconvenient facts about both his agenda and his ethics that didn't fit the narrative.

A few months later, two great journalists -- Mike Tomasky and Joe Conason of American Prospect magazine -- contacted me and offered an opportunity to take a broader look at Pennsylvania's junior senator. The result is a 6,000 word package that is now finally online.

UPDATE: Please read the entire Prospect article -- it is here! (And here is the sidebar about Santorum's charity.)

UPDATE: You can also see the cover here.

And when the magazine hits the newsstands later this month, you should go to Barnes and Nobles or Borders and buy it, to support more investigative reporting like this. Meanwhile, if you live in Philadelphia you should buy tomorrow's Daily News, which will carry an abridged version.

Here are the highlights, as they will appear in the DN version:

1. Santorum and his wife received a $500,000, five-year mortgage for their Leesburg, Va., home (pictured at top) from a small Philadelphia private bank run by a major campaign donor — even though its stated policy is to make loans only to its “affluent” investors, which the senator is not.

Good-government experts said the mortgage from Philadelphia Trust Co. raises serious questions about Santorum’s conduct at a time when he is the Senate GOP’s point man on ethics reform. They explained it would be a violation of the Senate’s current ethics rules if Santorum received something a regular citizen could not get.

2. A political action committee chaired by Santorum, America’s Foundation, spends less money on direct aid to GOP candidates — its stated purpose — and more on expenditures than similar PACs. And its expenditure reports are littered with scores of unorthodox expenses for a political committee, with charges at coffee and ice cream shops and fast-food joints as well as supermarkets and a home-hardware store.

For example, America’s Foundation made some 66 charges at Starbucks Coffee, almost all in the senator’s hometown of Leesburg, and 94 charges at another D.C.-area vendor, HMS Host. Virginia Davis, the campaign spokeswoman, defended all the charges as campaign related, noting that the senator prefers to meet political aides in coffee shops rather than on Senate property.

3. A little publicized charity founded by Santorum in 2001, called the Operation Good Neighbor Foundation, is not registered here in Pennsylvania, even though the majority of its fundraising and spending takes place here. What’s more, three years of public tax returns show the charity spending just 35.9 percent of the nearly $1 million it raised during that time on charity grants, well below the 75 percent threshold recommended by experts.

Those are the highlights -- there's more on the mortgage after the jump. The whole story will be online tomorrow, and I will direct you there as soon as I can.


Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor who now heads Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, said that “anytime he gets something that a regular person couldn’t get, that’s an improper gift” — regardless of any fees or the interest rate.

Officials with Philadelphia Trust have been generous supporters of Santorum’s campaign since the private bank first opened its doors in late 1998. Federal records show the company’s executives, directors and their spouses have donated $24,000 either to the senator’s campaign or to the America’s Foundation PAC. Some $13,000 of that came from the man who signed the mortgage papers — Philadelphia Trust CEO Michael Crofton — and his wife.

Crofton also has been chairman of the board of advisors for Operation Good Neighbor, and records show the bank has donated at least $10,000 to the senator’s charity.

Philadelphia Trust advertises itself as an independent private bank for “affluent investors” — who have liquid assets of at least $250,000 — and for institutions. On its Web site, it states that its “\[b\]anking services are available only to investment advisory clients whose portfolios we manage, oversee or administer.” A call to the bank confirmed that mortgages are only for investors and not the general public
.
According to a review of the annual financial disclosure forms that Santorum files, he has never held an investment portfolio with Philadelphia Trust. And in 2002, the year he obtained the mortgage, the value range he gave for his small number of investments could not have exceeded $140,000.

The Pennsylvania senator had bought the Virginia home, some 43 miles from Capitol Hill, a year earlier for $643,361, and — according to Loudoun County property records — had received a $405,000 mortgage from a traditional lender. The 2002 refinancing with Philadelphia Trust exceeded the initial loan by $95,000.

The chairman of Philadelphia Trust — George Marlin, a onetime Conservative Party candidate for mayor of New York — said discussing any customer’s transaction would violate bank privacy laws, and Crofton did not return phone calls. A bank director, Karen Iacovelli, also would not answer questions in detail, but when pressed on whether the bank does loan business with non-investment customers, she said “Yes and no — it’s a judgment call.”

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