McAuliffe did not disclose death-benefit investment


Terry McAuliffe (Chris Wattie/Reuters)
October 14, 2013

Gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe did not publicly disclose his investment with a Rhode Island man who preyed on dying people in forms filed with the state four years ago.

A financial disclosure statement that McAuliffe submitted in 2009, during his failed bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, makes no mention of what was then an active investment with Joseph A. Caramadre, who has pleaded guilty to scamming terminally ill people.

McAuliffe said last week that he was a “passive investor” and unaware of any wrongdoing. He invested $33,000 and made a $47,000 profit, according to his campaign. He donated $74,000 to charity, an amount representing his earnings as well as a campaign donation from Caramadre.

McAuliffe’s campaign acknowledged that he did not include his investment on the Statement of Economic Interests he filed in 2009. McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin said the former Democratic National Committee chairman was following the advice of his accountants and lawyers when he opted not to disclose the investment.

“The accountants who prepared and the lawyers who reviewed Terry’s SEI confirmed that everything is listed accurately,” Schwerin said in an e-mail Monday.

Asked why the lawyers and accountants advised against disclosure, Schwerin issued a statement from Washington lawyer Joseph Sandler, a former staff counsel for the DNC.

“We reviewed the investment and determined it was not required to be reported on the Statement of Economic Interests,” Sandler’s statement said.

The campaign did not explain why Sandler took that position. Sandler did not immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

The chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia called on the State Board of Elections to investigate the lack of disclosure in a letter dated Sunday.

“Though not nearly as troubling as McAuliffe’s participation in profiting from the demise of the terminally ill, it appears that he attempted to conceal the agreement mentioned above by intentionally filing an incomplete SEI,” state GOP Chairman Pat Mullins wrote. “I am aware that this is a very serious matter and that Election Day is just three weeks away, but I urge the Board to investigate and report with great urgency as Virginia voters deserve to know the truth.”

In federal court filings last week, McAuliffe’s name appeared on a lengthy list of investors with Caramadre, an attorney and accountant who obtained the names of dying people to set up annuities that would ultimately benefit outside investors.

There is no indication that McAuliffe or other investors were aware that Caramadre was duping dying patients into participating in the investment scheme. But McAuliffe’s campaign has declined to say whether he was familiar with the nature of the underlying investment, which offered him the chance to profit from someone else’s death.

The scheme appeared to exploit a little-known but legal loophole in insurance annuities that allows investors with no insurable interest in the dying person to receive death benefits.

House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said McAuliffe surely knew, noting that a prominent judge who once served as Caramadre’s lawyer has said that investors were aware of the nature of the investment.

“Former Rhode Island Supreme Court Judge Robert Flanders said this was all disclosed to the investors,” Howell said in a conference call Monday with reporters. “The fact is, McAuliffe knew what he was investing in. I just find this simply disgusting. . . . If Terry McAuliffe is willing to make unethical decisions to enrich himself, there’s no telling what he’d do as governor.”

McAuliffe’s campaign responded by raising ethical questions about McAuliffe’s Republican rival in the governor’s race, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II. It noted that Cuccinelli had reporting lapses of his own, initially failing to disclose substantial stock holdings in Star Scientific and $4,500 in gifts from the company’s chief executive, Jonnie R. Williams Sr.

Williams’s more lavish gifts to Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his family are the subject of ongoing state and federal investigations. Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring (D) reviewed Cuccinelli’s disclosure lapses at the attorney general’s request and found no evidence that he had broken the law.

“Its obvious why Ken Cuccinelli would make another false charge: He infamously failed to disclose stock and lavish gifts from a company and its CEO that his office was supposed to be pursuing for unpaid taxes but instead let off the hook,” Schwerin said in his e-mail.

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.
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