GOP Senate candidate Linda McMahon announced Monday that her campaign has filed a formal complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics against her Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, over a home equity loan.
The issue dates back to 2007, when Murphy, who represents Connecticut’s fifth congressional district, missed several payments on his mortgage and faced foreclosure. Murphy paid his overdue balance and stopped the foreclosure lawsuit, and in 2008 was subsequently able to obtain a $43,000 home equity credit line from Webster Bank with a 4.99 percent rate — a much lower rate, the McMahon campaign alleges, than was available to the public at the time. Murphy, who had previously represented Webster Bank as a private lawyer, has denied all allegations of wrongdoing.
The complaint, written by McMahon campaign manager Corry Bliss, calls for an investigation into whether he “has accepted a prohibited gift and used his official position to secure himself personal and political financial benefit.”
“No average American would have been able to secure a loan such as Congressman Murphy’s,” Bliss said in the letter. He added that Murphy’s ability to secure a mortgage at all, 14 months after being sued for mortgage default, “is precisely the sort of shameful conduct that sows public distrust in Congress.”
The call for a congressional ethics investigation marks the apex of McMahon’s continued efforts over the past weeks to draw attention to Murphy’s financial past. But the move will not have any formal consequences for Murphy, as the Office of Congressional Ethics cannot move forward on the complaint within 60 days of an election.
As an example of one “violation … of ethical conduct,” Bliss noted that Murphy served on the House Committee on Financial Services and voted in favor of the Toxic Asset Relief Program which gave Webster Bank $400 million in bailout funds, one month after receiving the credit line from the bank. Shortly before the TARP vote, the bank’s political action committee contributed $1,350 to Murphy’s campaign.
The McMahon campaign argued that Murphy’s conduct violated the House Ethics Manual, which states that members “should not in any way use their office for private gain” and that loans that are not “generally available to the public … are prohibited.”
The Murphy campaign has denied all allegations of wrongdoing and has tried to shift the media spotlight to McMahon’s past financial difficulties. McMahon and her husband Vince filed for personal bankruptcy in 1976 with about $1 million in debt. But after founding World Wrestling Entertainment, the McMahons now have an estimated net worth of up to $370 million.
Webster Bank issued a statement denying the McMahon campaign’s claims as well.
“Murphy met the terms of all of his loan agreements with Webster. He received the same high-quality service extended to all Webster customers,” the bank’s statement said. “Murphy’s service in Congress and on the House Financial Services Committee had no effect on Murphy’s banking relationship with Webster.”
McMahon and Murphy are both running for the Senate seat that will be vacated when Senator Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 departs in January, and while the seat was originally expected to be an easy win for Murphy, the latest Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters shows that McMahon has a slight upper hand.
The August poll of 1,472 voters shows 49 percent of respondents supporting McMahon and 46 percent supporting Murphy, with a 2.6 percent margin of error.