Ethics Complaints Filed Over Obama Mortgage Rate
The conservative public-interest group Judicial Watch today filed ethics complaints alleging that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, broke the rules when he accepted a discounted deal on a 2005 mortgage loan, as first reported last week by The Post.
"Americans ought to be suspicious when a United States Senator such as Barack Obama, obtains a sweetheart mortgage deal," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. "We have serious concerns that Senator Obama's mortgage may have violated the law and Senate ethics rules." The group filed separate complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee.
The Post's Joe Stephens reported that in 2005, Obama, then a freshman Democratic senator, bought a $1.65 million restored Georgian mansion in an upscale Chicago neighborhood. To finance the purchase, he secured the loan, for $1.32 million, which was locked in at an interest rate of 5.625 percent on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, below the average for such loans at the time in Chicago.
The loan was unusually large, known in banker lingo as a "super super jumbo." Compared to the average rate in Chicago at the time for a jumbo mortgage, Obama's deal could have saved him more than $300 per month, Stephens reported.
The article quoted an Obama campaign spokesman as saying Obama received a discount from the base rate at the bank, not because he was a senator, but because he had an offer from a competing bank and he brought other business to the institution.
"It appears that due to his position as a United States Senator, Barack Obama received improper special treatment from Northern Trust resulting in an illicit 'gift' which has a value of almost $125,000 in interest savings," Judicial Watch wrote in its U.S. Senate ethics complaint. In its FEC complaint, the group called for an investigation into whether the special mortgage is a "disguised and illegal corporate campaign contribution" to Obama.
In March, the Obama campaign posted documents related to the home loan on its Web site.
By Derek Kravitz |
July 9, 2008; 5:57 PM ET
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