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Report Sheds Little But Plot Thickens for Rep. Richardson

Anyone hoping for insight into Rep. Laura Richardson's (D-Calif.) tangled finances is likely to be disappointed by her first-ever congressional financial disclosure filing Monday.

Richardson, a freshman House member who is fast becoming Congress's poster child for the subprime mortgage crisis, didn't shed any more light on how she lost one home to foreclosure, defaulted repeatedly on loans for two other houses and failed to pay property taxes and car repairs.

Luckily for her, by law, she doesn't have to report the mortgage secured on personal residences that aren't used as rental properties. Therefore, her financial disclosure report mentions none of her financial woes.

"If you're disclosing a mortgage on a personal home, you're disclosing more than you need to," says campaign finance and congressional ethics expert Robert Walker, who recently left his post as chief counsel to the Senate ethics committee to join the private law practice of Wiley Rein LLP in Washington.

However, Walker said if the congresswoman is renting either of the two homes she still owns in California she must report that income. No rental income was listed on her financial disclosure report.

Richardson's office, in typical fashion, didn't respond to a question about whether Richardson rents any of her properties. The congresswoman initially denied that her home was sold in foreclosure and later said the foreclosure happened without her knowledge. Since then, she kept mum about the situation even as her story has become somewhat of an embarrassment for her Democratic leadership. (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asked about last week about Richardson's multiple home defaults, said "every member of Congress is responsible for living up to the highest ethical standards."

The newest wrinkle in the congresswoman's financial saga comes today with a report by the Long Beach Press-Telegram reporting that Richardson failed to disclose a $20,000 loan from a strip club owner when she was on the Long Beach City Council in 2000. Two years after receiving the loan, the paper reports, Richardson voted to place the strip club owner's father on the city's board of examiners.

The strip club owner, Jerry Westlund, reportedly asked Richardson to pay him back in 2005 after police began showing up at his Fantasy Ranch club. The Press-Telegram interviewed Richardson's ex-husband, Long Beach police chief Anthony Batts, and reported: "Batts said club dancers were found to be improperly dressed, or not at all, in violation of other city codes. The club was only permitted to allow topless dancing."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  June 16, 2008; 4:45 PM ET
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