Some Pols Have Good Reason to Care About Credit Availability

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WASHINGTON — The flow of credit has not slowed everywhere — just look at the United States Congress.

The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks financial information about members of Capitol Hill, reported Thursday that lawmakers in 2011 had racked up between $238.9 million and $568.3 million in personal debt, not including their home mortgage.

At the top of the list, according to the CRP's OpenSecrets blog, was Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. The congressman, who is one of the wealthiest Hill members, "'owed at least $100 million on two personal loans from Union Bank and Merrill Lynch, but his office didn't respond to a request for comment on the reason for the loans,'" the blog said. (The blog was written by Russ Choma and Janie Boschma.)

A "distant second" was Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., who had combined debts of between $18 million and $90 million, the blog said. His spokesman told OpenSecrets the congressman "'has complied fully with his reporting requirements and supports this process for government transparency.'"

Meanwhile, 76 members had reported credit card debt of more than $10,000, which is the threshold for reporting. Among them was Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who chairs the House Financial Services subcommittee on financial institutions. Capito was reported as having had two cards with a combined balance of between $30,002 and $100,000. Capito's spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment from American Banker. The same range of card balances was reported for five other members. But two lawmakers — Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va. — each reported balances of at least six figures.

McCain reported balances of between $150,001 and $350,000 combined on two cards, and filings indicated the cards were "in the name of the senator's wife, Cindy McCain," the blog reported. An aide told OpenSecrets the balances were paid off, saying, "'It's been the McCain's practice and procedure to pay off the balance of their credit cards on a monthly basis, so they don't actually carry credit card debt.'"

Scott reported total balances in a range of $140,003 to $365,000 on four cards. "'His office confirmed the figures, but did not respond to OpenSecrets.org's questions about whether the balances had been paid off,'" the blog said.

Some lawmakers were mentioned in the report for their debt associated with business ventures. The blog mentioned Rep. Carolyn Maloney, N.Y., a senior Democrat on House Financial Services Committee. "Numerous members," including Maloney, "said they owed money for real estate investments and commercial property projects." A spokesman for Maloney had no comment.

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