Over the past two years, Rep. Clyde C. Holloway (R-La.) fell behind in his taxes, so the Internal Revenue Service was forced to seize some of his campaign funds. And, Holloway cosigned a loan for a venture that defaulted.
But those setbacks have not shown up on the personal financial reports that Holloway, as a member of Congress, is required by law to file for public inspection. Instead, his reports simply hint at a few losses in his plant nursery business.
Holloway's case points out the holes in financial disclosure rules imposed on Congress. Some financial problems, such as tax delinquencies, aren't required to be reported on the disclosure forms, according to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.
The result is that members of Congress go through the motions of telling the public about their personal business deals, but keep the full truth to themselves.
Since members of Congress can't seem to make ends meet on their salaries, they have a right to make a living on the side, but a growing number of them have gotten in trouble mixing business and politics without telling the voters.
Rep. Denny Smith (R-Ore.) now faces an ethics inquiry over his role in the savings and loan scandal. The focus will be Smith's efforts to keep the government from going after himself and other directors of a thrift that later collapsed.
Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) has been accused by Democrats of using his position in a public-private economic development partnership to funnel federal money to developers who were also Weldon's political supporters. Even the Democrats' golden boy, Sen. Bob Kerrey (Neb.), has fallen into the trap. We reported in July that Kerrey was taking heat back home over his ties to a failed S&L and to a company that was promoting a nuclear waste dump project in Nebraska.
You won't find the details on a financial disclosure form. The rules require only a vague accounting of each member's business dealings. The fine print has to leak out.
That's what happened to Holloway. In 1988, the IRS filed a lien against him for $76,000 in delinquent payroll taxes for his business, Holloway Nurseries. The IRS even seized a large chunk of money from his campaign funds, and he was forced to take out a loan to pay back the campaign.
Also in 1988, Holloway cosigned a $1 million line of credit for some of his political supporters who were going into the vegetable processing business. The company defaulted on the loan, but the bank never came to Holloway to collect.
"I guess I may be a totally different politician than anybody you ever met," Holloway told our associate Scott Sleek. "I don't look for anything in return in politics." He did acknowledge, however, that the people he backed in the vegetable business had once sponsored a political event for him.
Holloway's mixing of personal and federal business includes the $500,000 emergency business loan he qualified for from the Farmers Home Administration. His nursery, like others in Louisiana, suffered setbacks from a freeze last winter.