Published September 10. 2012 12:00PM Updated September 10. 2012 11:48PM
Hartford — The campaign of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon has filed an ethics complaint against her Democratic opponent, Chris Murphy, alleging that the congressman violated House rules in 2008 by accepting a “generous” home mortgage from Webster Bank.
Murphy’s campaign denounced the complaint as a “shameless political ploy” that’s “filled with lies.” The Office of Congressional Ethics is prohibited from acting on such referrals against a candidate made within 60 days of an election.
The complaint, signed and submitted over the weekend by McMahon’s campaign manager, Corry Bliss, follows last week’s revelations that Murphy skipped payments and briefly faced apartment eviction proceedings in 2003 and home foreclosure proceedings in 2007.
The eviction and foreclosure threats stopped once the 5th Congressional District representative paid his overdue balances.
In the complaint, the McMahon campaign alleges that Murphy used his congressional position to obtain a “prohibitive gift” in July 2008 when, a little more than a year after the foreclosure lawsuit, he secured a $43,000 home equity line of credit from Webster Bank with a 4.99 percent interest rate.
The complaint questions whether Murphy, with a recent history of missed bill payments, could have gotten such financing if he weren’t a member of Congress on the bank-regulating House Financial Services Committee.
It notes that Murphy, a lawyer, had once provided legal services to Webster Bank and received $2,100 from Webster’s political action committee between 2008 and 2010. In October 2008, Murphy voted in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the national bank bailout that extended $400 million to Webster, funds since paid back with interest.
The complaint also implies that Murphy received a sweetheart deal on the interest rate, a claim Webster emphatically denies.
“The 4.99 percent interest rate on the credit line was well above the 3.99 percent rate that the bank's most creditworthy customers were receiving at the time,” the bank said in a statement. “He received the same high quality service extended to all Webster customers.”
Ben Marter, Murphy’s campaign spokesman, said McMahon’s filing of the complaint is nothing more than a campaign stunt to grab headlines.
“Since Linda McMahon can’t talk about her real record as CEO — laying off Connecticut workers while taking millions in taxpayer-funded credits and denying health care and disability to her workers — all she’s left with is for her campaign manager to file a desperate ethics attack filled with lies,” Marter said.
The McMahon campaign disagreed.
“This is anything but a political ploy,” McMahon spokesman Todd Abrajano said. “He is trying to distract from the real issue, which is Congressman Murphy’s own behavior while a member of Congress.”
Linda McMahon and her husband, Vince, experienced home foreclosure themselves in 1976 and discharged debt through a bankruptcy filing that year. Murphy last week contrasted his debt experience with theirs.
“The difference is that I took steps immediately to pay it back, and Linda McMahon went to court to try to avoid paying her debts,” the congressman said.
McMahon took issue with Murphy’s contrast, saying that the debt troubles of a sitting congressman deserve greater scrutiny than those of a then-private citizen outside public office.