It is with sadness more than anger that I respond to The Post's condemnation of my service in Congress [editorial, Oct. 19].

I would like to respond in detail to each criticism, but in deference to space limitations I will address only the most recent and serious allegation: that I received favorable treatment from a credit lender, MBNA Corp., in exchange for support of bankruptcy reform legislation.

The Post's accusation is untrue.

Our financial difficulties began with a medical emergency in our family. They were exacerbated by spending over our means on alternative medical approaches.

In my case, I inexcusably and unsuccessfully tried to recover from our debt by speculating in index options. I made our situation worse.

The loan in question was initiated through a call received by my ex-wife from an MBNA collection officer. The company offered to securitize our substantial credit card debt by refinancing our home. MBNA's appraisal was $31,000 less than an appraisal done by First Federal Mortgage Co. several months earlier in 1997. The mortgage rate was 10.5 percent, which was 50 percent higher than the prevailing rate of 7 to 7.5 percent.

Until our daughter's illness, we had a perfect credit rating, because my wife took care of our finances.

MBNA officials have said that the company's legislative people had no knowledge that such a loan was taking place and that they would make the loan again given the high interest rate and the fact that payments were deducted from my paycheck.

At no time did I ever discuss any legislation with anyone from MBNA. The Post stated that I played a lead role in the legislation as a result of getting this loan. That is not so.

In congressional hearings, members testify first and leave. I had no idea MBNA was testifying later in the day. I also had no role in deciding when the bankruptcy reform bill was introduced and had actually signed on weeks before it was. Rep. George W. Gekas (Pa.) controlled the timing of the legislation because he was the chief Republican sponsor of the bill.

The only alternative to refinancing my home with one of the financial companies, all of which supported bankruptcy reform, was to declare bankruptcy myself.

I believe in paying off as much debt as is reasonably possible. That is why I have supported the bankruptcy reform legislation, which would automatically give families below the median income an opportunity to be relieved of their debt but would make people in my income bracket responsible for working out payments for a reasonable portion of outstanding debt.

In addition to a number of consumer provisions I sponsored that are hostile to credit card companies, the reform of the homestead exemption loophole for the very wealthy was further incentive to back the bill.

My judgment in supporting this bill and others is certainly subject to disagreement and criticism, but at no time have I ever compromised the public trust for personal gain.


U.S. Representative (D-Va.)



It is inconceivable that The Post truly believes Scott C. Tate to be the best candidate to represent Virginia's 8th District. Rep. James P. Moran Jr.'s ethical failings are disheartening, but to turn his seat over to someone so completely at odds with what the majority of voters in our district stand for would be counterproductive.

On his Web site, Mr. Tate promises "to make permanent the tax changes enacted last year." In VoteSmart's Political Awareness Test, he indicated that he would not always support the legality of abortion and that he opposes legalizing medicinal marijuana, supports a unilateral invasion of Iraq, opposes the Kyoto Protocol and opposes a ban on semiautomatic guns. On each of these issues, Mr. Moran -- and the voters of the 8th District -- hold precisely the opposite view.

The Post's editorial notes that Mr. Tate fashions himself as a "moderate whose views closely parallel those of" Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.). Wonderful. Perhaps Mr. Tate should be running in the 11th District, where his views might accurately represent those of his constituents. In the 8th, that is simply not the case.