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Senate Rivals in Pennsylvania In a Dead Heat on Mortgages

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By Charles Babington and Jonathan Weisman
Sunday, February 26, 2006

In Pennsylvania's fiercely contested Senate race, Democrats last week thought they had received a gift courtesy of the Philadelphia Daily News. The newspaper reported that embattled Republican incumbent Rick Santorum's mortgage on his Leesburg, Va., home looked suspicious.

The loan was made in 2002 by an obscure private bank, the Philadelphia Trust Co., which is run by major donors to Santorum's campaigns. And the company says it caters only to "affluent investors," not run-of-the-mill homebuyers. Santorum, the father of six, has said he lives "paycheck to paycheck" and sometimes receives money from his retired parents.

Democrats thought they smelled favoritism. But their hopes diminished when Santorum released details of the mortgage: a five-year, interest-only balloon loan at 5 percent, which were not unusual terms in 2002.

The potential partisan implications of the controversy were further dulled when likely Democratic nominee Robert P. Casey Jr., the state treasurer, revealed that his $120,000 mortgage is from First National Community Bank, whose politically active board members have contributed to his campaigns.

"It doesn't sound like either of them got a particularly good deal," Keith Gumbinger, vice president of mortgage information publisher HSH Associates, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Polls show Casey, whose father was a governor of Pennsylvania, leading Santorum, who is seeking a third term.

Boehner Faulted as a Provider

Tip O'Neill may have believed that all politics are local, but don't tell that to the editors of House Majority Leader John A. Boehner's hometown newspaper.

For weeks, the editorial page of the Hamilton (Ohio) Journal-News has been lobbing missiles at Boehner. Their complaint: He's not bringing home the bacon while he is busy playing for a national crowd.

In his recent bid to be elected majority leader, Boehner boasted of his longtime refusal to play pork-barrel politics -- using "earmarks" in the appropriations process for hometown projects -- as a major selling point. Many Republicans fear that the practice has gotten out of hand, and, as the ostensibly conservative party, they looked like hypocrites for larding so many local favors into spending bills.

But the Journal-News said it would not mind seeing a little lard.

"It's time to acknowledge that millions of dollars a year are not flowing into Butler County specifically because Boehner won't ask for or accept funding for his district," the paper groused just before the leadership election. "The surest way for Boehner to lose out on a leadership position is for him to pledge to other Republican congressmen that every district will be treated as his own if he is elected."


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