As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, February 13, 2009

CA-38: She's Her Own Predatory Lender

Grace Napolitano is a fairly unassuming back-bencher Congresswoman from the Los Angeles area, who generally votes well on most issues. Being in a heavily Democratic district, she hasn't faced much competition from Republicans in election cycles during her decade in Congress, so she's had to find somewhere for campaign contributions to go. Like her pocket:

During a decade in Congress, California Representative Grace Napolitano has pocketed more than $200,000 of political contributions by charging as much as 18 percent interest on money she loaned to her own campaign.

The suburban Los Angeles Democrat made the $150,000 loan in 1998, when she was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Through Dec. 31, her campaign committee has used donations to pay Napolitano $221,780 of interest while reducing the principal by just $64,727, a review of her Federal Election Commission filings shows.

As recently as June 2008, Napolitano held a fundraiser asking supporters and political action committees for money to pay down the 1998 debt. Napolitano, her spokesman and her campaign’s lawyers didn’t respond to requests for comment [...]

For Napolitano, a 72-year-old grandmother of 14, the campaign IOU has been a profitable asset, far outperforming stocks since the loan started accruing interest in May 1998. Over the same period, an investment in the Standard & Poor’s 500 stocks, with reinvested dividends, would have lost more than 7 percent, according to Bloomberg data.

A case could be made that if you're silly enough to contribute to Grace Napolitano in a D+20 district, you deserve to be fleeced. But of course, the great majority of her contributors are corporate clients that are funneling personal contributions to her through interest payments on her initial loan. It's really shocking, particularly considering that she represents a district with a 16% poverty rate.

Napolitano is a solid vote but we can expect much better than this from our public officials. Politics should never be an avenue for self-aggrandizement.

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