Congresswoman's Financial Report: This Won't Be Pretty.

By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, June 12, 2008

We may learn more about Rep. Laura Richardson's (D-Calif.) home foreclosure problems Monday, when House members' annual financial reports are scheduled to be released.

Richardson filed her report on time rather than seeking an extension, her spokesman, William Marshall, tells On the Hill. But Marshall says he can "neither confirm nor deny" whether the disclosure report will reflect the full extent of the beleaguered congresswoman's financial woes, which include foreclosure on one home and loan defaults on two others.

Marshall declined to answer questions about how Richardson, who won a special election last August, wound up in such dire straits. She lost her Sacramento home to foreclosure after failing to make payments, at the same time that she reportedly owed Sacramento County some $9,000 in property taxes and defaulted on loans six times on two other California homes.

In the meantime, however, Richardson rose in one year from Long Beach councilwoman to state assemblywoman to a member of the U.S. Congress.

According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Richardson also failed to pay hundreds of dollars worth of car repairs to one mechanic, then ultimately abandoned the car at another auto body shop.

Yesterday, the story took a new twist. The Los Angeles Times reported that the home Richardson lost in foreclosure could be returned to her, because the lender, Washington Mutual, filed a letter of rescission of the foreclosure sale and asked the new owner for the keys back.

"They took the property back, and they didn't even send back the money," the new owner, real estate investor James York, told the Times. "It's clear what's happening is Ms. Richardson is abusing her political power and using it for her own political needs," he said. "You don't have to be smart to understand what's happening."

Richardson isn't saying anything. Referring to the congresswoman's lender, her spokesman told us, "This is about Washington Mutual." He urged us to call Washington Mutual for comment. But a Washington Mutual spokeswoman told us she couldn't comment on the foreclosure sale because Congresswoman Richardson "has not provided us with authorization to publicly discuss her loan."

The left-leaning watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington calls Richardson a "deadbeat congresswoman."

He Can't Handle the Truth

Jack Nicholson may be the king of cool. He's won Oscars, dated Hollywood starlets and sat courtside as his favorite team, the Los Angeles Lakers, has captured multiple NBA championships.

But when it comes to politics, Nicholson may want to ponder his very own losing streak: He tends to back also-rans in Democratic presidential primary contests.

Take this year's battle for the Democratic nomination. Nicholson's first choice was none other than Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). On Jan. 10, Nicholson cut a $500 check to Kucinich's presidential campaign -- barely a week before the diminutive lawmaker bowed out of the race and high-tailed it back to Cleveland to fight for his House seat. According to Federal Election Commission records, Nicholson then sent another $500 to Kucinich's congressional campaign, helping him win the primary there.

Without a horse in the presidential campaign, Nicholson set out to help other candidates failed candidates. He wrote $500 checks in February to the debt retirement efforts of Sens. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), both of whom left the race after dismal showings in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.

Finally, on Feb. 29, Nicholson picked a new presidential contender -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). Just days before her big primary wins in Ohio and Texas, Nicholson sent a check for $2,300, the maximum, to her campaign.

Through the end of April, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was the only Democratic presidential contender from the House or Senate not to receive any financial support from the famed actor.

This is hardly a new phenomenon for Nicholson. During the 2000 campaign, Nicholson backed former senator Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), giving him $1,000 for his unsuccessful bid for the nomination eventually won by former Vice President Al Gore. (It's worth noting that Bradley is close friends with Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, a pal of Nicholson's.)

And in the 2004 primary season, Nicholson sat on the financial sidelines until Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) secured the nomination. Nicholson cut his first Kerry check in April 2004.

Representatives for Nicholson's production company did not return a telephone call seeking comment, and his accounting firm, which issued the checks to the candidates, declined requests for comment.

So, maybe the next step in Democratic unity could take place by getting Obama -- a Chicago Bulls fan who grew up a Philadelphia 76ers fan -- to sit in the front row with Jack at tomorrow's Lakers game.

Careful What You Wish For

The Hill was buzzing this week about The Post's story Monday's about the pending takeover of the Senate's network of eateries by Restaurant Associates, the private company that has in recent years turned House-side cafeterias and coffee shops into nicer places to eat.

Like clockwork, the lines for the taco salad special, offered every Wednesday in the House's basement cafeteria, were out the door yesterday. The place was so packed that House Sergeant-at-Arms William Livingood loudly boasted to friends that it was all those "Senate-side" people jamming the lines, jokingly threatening to impose a toll on Senate staffers in search of better food in the House.

Better, maybe. Cheaper, definitely not.

The beloved taco salad, which earlier this decade went for $3.95 with a complimentary 12-ounce soda, now costs $5.25. You want guacamole with that salad? That'll be 75 cents extra, a new fee recently imposed by Restaurant Associates.

Unlike the taxpayer-subsidized Senate eateries, Restaurant Associates has to turn a profit, so the taco salad with guacamole now goes for $6. And no soda.

Meet the New Boss

The Senate has a new top ethics cop. John Sassaman, who has served as a deputy counsel on both the Senate and House ethics committees, took over this week as acting chief counsel for the Senate ethics panel.

Sassaman's elevation follows the departure of veteran chief counsel Robert Walker, who had been the top ethics staffer since 2003. Walker also previously served as chief counsel on the House ethics panel, making him the only staffer to ever lead the ethical police forces for both chambers.

Walker's congressional run included overseeing investigations into now-imprisoned former congressman James Traficant (D-Ohio) and Sen. Larry Craig's airport restroom arrest. He is now a private-sector ethics compliance attorney at Wiley Rein LLP.

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