Legal Filings

Legal Filings
Feb 22, 2006

CREW Files Ethics Complaint Against Sen. Santorum

Washington, DC – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee alleging that Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) violated the Senate Gift Rule by accepting a mortgage from The Philadelphia Trust Company, a bank that serves affluent clients.

CREW based its complaint on a story by Will Bunch that appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News on February 21, 2006 and in the March 10, 2006 edition of The American Prospect. According to the article, in 2002, Sen. Santorum and his wife received a $500,000 five-year mortgage for their Leesburg, VA home from Philadelphia Trust. The bank’s web site states that “banking services are available only to investment advisory clients whose portfolios we manage, oversee or administer.” The Daily News reporter called the bank, which confirmed that it offers mortgages only to investors and not to the general public.

Sen. Santorum’s financial disclosure forms for 2001 and 2002 show no investment portfolio with Philadelphia Trust. Moreover, in 2002, the year Sen. Santorum obtained the mortgage, his financial disclosure forms indicate that his investments did not exceed $145,000.

Rule 35 of the Senate Code of Official Conduct bans Senators from accepting gifts and specifically includes “loans” within the definition of “gifts.” The Gift Rule also provides that Senators can accept loans from banks and other financial institutions on terms “generally available to the public.”

CREW’s complaint alleges that because a “loan” constitutes a “gift,” because Sen. Santorum did not meet Philadelphia Trust’s clientele criteria, and because the Senator was not, in fact, a bank client at the time he received the mortgage, Sen. Santorum violated the Gift Rule.

CREW’s complaint also notes that Philadelphia Trust officials have contributed a total of $23,250 to Sen. Santorum’s campaign and his political action committee, America’s Foundation.

Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, stated “the public has the right to expect that Senators – just like everybody else – will follow the rules. Sen. Santorum’s decision to accept a loan not available to other people in his financial position demonstrates his contempt for the rules. This is particularly ironic given that Sen. Santorum has long attempted to position himself as the poster child for public morality.”

Sloan continued, “ethical trespasses have become the norm for Sen. Santorum, which begs the question: how serious is Majority Leader Frist in changing the way in which the Senate does its business, considering he appointed Sen. Santorum to be the point person on ethics reform?”

“Although there is no evidence that Sen. Santorum has used his official position to benefit Philadelphia Trust, the receipt of the loan from the bank creates exactly the sort of appearance of impropriety that the Gift Rule was designed to address.”

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