Big Trouble For Little Ricky
by Scott Shields, Tue Feb 21, 2006 at 06:12:21 AM EST
Living "paycheck to paycheck" with "a check every now and then" from his parents. Wow. Life sure must be rough for Senator Rick Santorum. I can picture it now -- Santorum picking up clothes for his kids at the Goodwill, Santorum buying no-brand bulk groceries at Sam's Club, Santorum at the kitchen table late at night, trying to figure out how to make ends meet, and so on. He's like a modern-day Bob Cratchit.
That's what you might think, but no. Rick Santorum did what every struggling American worker ought to do -- he started a PAC! Even if it's not illegal, it's pretty tasteless. And as Ulysses1 has diaried, Will Bunch, writing in The American Prospect has the scoop.
What we found is that Santorum's exurban lifestyle is financed in ways that aren't available to the average voter back home in Pennsylvania -- namely a political action committee that lists payments for such unorthodox items as dozens of trips to the Starbucks in Leesburg, a number of stops at fast-food joints, and purchases at Target, Wal-Mart, and a Giant supermarket in northern Virginia. Although a Santorum aide defends those charges as legitimate political costs, good-government experts say the expenditures are at best unconventional, and at worst a possible violation of Senate rules, and the purchases appear to be unorthodox when compared with other senators' filings. Santorum's PAC -- a "leadership PAC," whose purpose is to dispense money to other Republican candidates -- used just 18.1 percent of its money to that end over a recent five-year period, a lower number than other leadership PACs of top senators from both parties.
Oh, is that all? Well, no. It gets far sleazier. Take, for example, Santorum's mortgage. The company that holds the mortgage, Philadelphia Trust, isn't your average lender. It seems pretty clear that they aren't extending lines of credit to most families living "paycheck to paycheck."
Rick and Karen Santorum do not appear to fit the profile of customers to whom the financial institution would normally issue a loan of any kind. According to information currently posted on Philadelphia Trust's Web site, banking services "are offered at no additional charge to our clients" and "are available only to investment advisory clients whose portfolios we manage, oversee or administer. Interest rates on loans and deposits are competitive. Loan payments will be customized to match each client's specific needs. Approved loans will be collateralized by your investment portfolio."
Santorum's financial disclosure forms filed with the clerk of the Senate show that he has never maintained an investment portfolio with Philadelphia Trust. For that matter, the senator would hardly fit the profile of the "affluent investor" that the Philadelphia bank seeks -- namely, people with investment assets of at least $250,000. On his 2002 disclosure form, Santorum listed liquid assets, primarily retirement accounts and life insurance, in a range no greater than $140,000. ...
Founded in late 1998, Philadelphia Trust is a small institution led by financiers who are clearly friendly to Santorum. CEO Crofton has been a significant political supporter of the senator. He and his wife Margaret have given $8,500 to America's Foundation, a leadership PAC controlled by Santorum, and another $4,500 to the senator's campaign fund. Altogether, executives and directors of Philadelphia Trust have donated $24,000 to the two committees. Among those donors is Marlin -- a former Conservative Party candidate for mayor of New York City.
I know what you're thinking. It's outrageous that Santorum is using small-dollar donations to his leadership PAC, America's Foundation, as a slush fund to finance his lifestyle. After all, his Senate income of $162,100 is nothing to sneeze at. Admittedly, I don't know how many small donors Santorum's PAC has, if any. If there are a few, they'd ought to be made aware of Santorum's Starbucks and Arby's habits. But something tells me the PAC's regular donors don't mind one bit.
The biggest source of income for America's Foundation is industry PACs -- particularly in the areas of banking, insurance, health care, and pharmaceuticals -- which have given hundreds of thousands of dollars. Oddly enough, given Santorum's position as the Senate's leading social conservative, America's Foundation has raked in big dollars from gaming, tobacco, and liquor interests. Among the Santorum fund's leading donors are political action committees for R.J. Reynolds, Altria, and U.S. Tobacco Corporation. On November 2, 2004, the date that the GOP maintained control of the Congress and the White House, four U.S. tobacco executives gave $10,000 to America's Foundation -- in addition to $6,000 in donations from the firm's PAC that same year. Earlier in October 2004, Santorum had been a key vote in a House-Senate conference committee that killed a provision allowing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the tobacco industry. Also in the fall of 2004, America's Foundation received $5,000 from the Anheuser-Busch PAC. That summer they received $1,000 from the Miller Brewing PAC. In April 2005, Santorum introduced legislation that aimed to halve federal excise taxes on beer, from $18 to $9 a barrel for large brewers. ...
Then there is the case of the $612 million coal-to-diesel fuel plant in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. No one has been a bigger governmental supporter of this controversial project than Santorum, who inserted a provision in the National Energy Security Act of 2000 to allow federal funding for part of its construction costs, clearing the way in 2003 for a $100 million Department of Energy grant to the plant's builder, Waste Management and Processors, Inc. Last year, he added a provision in the energy bill to federally guarantee loans for the plant. Waste Management and Processors CEO John Rich and his relatives have donated $8,000 to America's Foundation and $18,500 to Santorum's campaign fund since 2001, according to federal records. Davis, in response to an inquiry, said that none of Santorum's official actions were linked to the donations.
Rick Santorum has put his office up for sale. Buy him and his family fast food and gourmet coffee and he's yours for life. This is the Republican leadership in action.