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Martin O’Malley: Little in savings, lots of debt

Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley with his wife, Catherine Curran O'Malley, as he announced his candidacy on May 30. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley left office earlier this year facing a mountain of debt and scrambling to replace his $150,000-a-year salary with paid speeches and other work in the months before he launched his presidential bid, a newly released disclosure form and tax returns show.

The Democratic hopeful and his wife, Catherine Curran O’Malley, a district court judge, had taken on $339,200 in loans to put their two eldest children through prestigious universities and took out a mortgage on a $549,000 home in Baltimore after living with their four children in the governor’s mansion in Annapolis for the past eight years.

The couple, who have virtually no savings aside from their public-sector pensions, also took out a line of credit of at least $100,000, according to a disclosure form O’Malley filed with the Federal Election Commission that was made public this week.

That form, coupled with five years of tax returns that O’Malley made available to The Washington Post, offers a portrait of a family with a far different financial outlook than those of several other candidates running for president, including Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican contender Jeb Bush. Bush, the former Florida governor, made $29 million in the private sector after leaving office in 2007.

[Bush tax forms show income of $29 million since 2007]

Aides said that the O’Malleys, who put their four children through Catholic grade schools and high schools, have enough money to cover their expenses and debt payments but have never lived extravagantly. Catherine Curran O’Malley makes $141,333 a year as a district court judge in Baltimore, and the couple reported no outside income from stocks or other investments.

Earlier this month, as he proposed an initiative to make college more affordable, O’Malley disclosed that he and his wife had taken out a series of loans totaling $329,200 to help pay for the educations of their daughters Grace, 24, at Georgetown University, and Tara, 23, at College of Charleston.

[How Martin O’Malley wants to lighten the load of college debt]

While the family has drawn some criticism for not choosing more affordable options, such as the University of Maryland, an O’Malley spokeswoman said the choices underscored the family’s priorities.

“It’s clear that the governor and his family value education and made that a priority, and I think that’s something they share with a lot of families,” said O’Malley spokeswoman Haley Morris. “They made sacrifices and took on debt to invest in something they really believe in: the best education possible for their daughters.”

The O'Malleys also have two sons, who are likely to attend college in coming years.

[Column: On student loans, do as O’Malley says, not as he does]

Like Clinton, O’Malley reported receiving income from speeches to private groups after leaving office in January. While O’Malley commanded far smaller fees than the former secretary of state – and gave only a handful of speeches -- he also seemed to benefit from government and political connections forged during his time in public service.

Among his most lucrative speeches was a $50,000 appearance at a conference in Baltimore sponsored by Center Maryland, an organization whose leaders include a former O’Malley communications director, the finance director of his presidential campaign and the director of a super PAC formed to support O’Malley’s presidential bid.

O’Malley also lists $147,812 for a series of speeches to Environmental Systems Research Institute, a company that makes mapping software that O’Malley heavily employed as governor as part of an initiative to use data and technology to guide policy decisions.

A precise accounting of O’Malley’s speech revenue is not possible from the disclosure form. It lists an advance of $142,500 from the Washington Speaker’s Bureau, an organization that books its clients and typically takes a cut of the income to cover the advance fees.

In April, O'Malley cut short some planned speeches in Ireland to return to Baltimore in the aftermath of rioting in the city.

Besides paid speeches, O’Malley, who launched his presidential campaign May 30, also reported receiving $33,000 as a visiting professor at the business school at Johns Hopkins University and $25,000 as a member of the board of Barcoding, Inc., a Baltimore-based technology company.

On their 2014 tax return, the most recent filed, the O’Malleys list $330,777 in total income. That includes the couple’s salaries and a $65,346 pension that O’Malley receives as a former mayor and city council member in Baltimore.

An adviser said O’Malley will also receive pension income from his service as Maryland governor but that does not kick in until he turns 55. O’Malley is currently 52.