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It didn’t take long.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum came within eight votes of winning the Iowa caucuses Tuesday and by Wednesday he faced questions about ethical lapses during his time in Congress.
Santorum came under scrutiny after he received a preferred mortgage from a bank run by campaign donors, engineering the diversion of federal funds to a real estate developer who contributed heavily to the Senator’s charity and sponsored an $8 million pork barrel bill for another top donor to the charity.
Says former federal prosecutor Melanie Sloan, who filed ethics complaints against Santorum in 2006:
There were several instances in which Santorum appeared to have taken campaign contributions in direct exchange for legislative assistance. He violated Senate gift rules by accepting a mortgage from a bank in which he had no interest and which otherwise made loans only to its own investors.
Santorum left office in 2007 before any action could be taken against him by the Senate Ethics Committee.
“Looks like it’s Rick’s turn in the hot seat,” GOP strategist Allen Carroll told Capitol Hill Blue. “Once he became a contender this had to come out.”
Santorum usually ignores questions about his ethical lapses. In a letter to the editor to a Philadelphia newspapers, he called the charges by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) “disingenuous innuendo and half-truths.”
“The only half-truth is the Senator’s evasion of the facts,” a former aide to Santorum told Capitol Hill Blue in 2006 when the charges first came to light. “He’s dirty. I’m sorry to have to say that for a man I once worked for and admired but he broke the law.”
Santorum and his wife purchased a $643,361 house in northern Virginia with a $500,000 preferred-rate mortgage from Philadelphia Trust Company, a small private bank that catered to big money investors. Federal Election Commission records show officers of the bank gave maximum allowable contributions totalling $24,000 to Santorum’s campaign and raised even more money through a technique called “bundling,” where a contributor hosts a private event and collects high-dollar donations and turns them over to the campaign in bulk. Such bundling funneled several hundred thousand dollars into Santroum’s campaign war check.
“Rick always played fast and loose with the rules,” the former aide said. “He felt rules were for ‘little people,’ not him.”