December 18, 2015

Fetterman’s Flummoxing Finances

Reports that Pennsylvania senate candidate John Fetterman is openly flouting campaign finance rules by failing to disclose his income sources, assets, and liabilities – despite promising to do so nearly a month ago – are raising more questions than answers about his murky financial situation.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:

… the state-required form Mr. Fetterman filed this year as Braddock’s mayor could scarcely be simpler: It indicates he had no direct or indirect sources of income.

As Braddock’s mayor, Mr. Fetterman earns $150 a month but said “I don’t take the money myself.” Instead, he directs it to community needs. Robert Caruso, who directs the state Ethics Commission, said Mr. Fetterman’s mayoral earnings should still be disclosed but added “we see frequent deficiencies” in filings by local officials, and such errors require only an amended filing.

Mr. Fetterman said that support from his family, which owns a York, Pa. insurance company, “allows us to live at a frugal middle-class level. We’re not vacationing in the Hamptons.” (Mr. Fetterman’s state filing also doesn’t disclose that family support, which Mr. Caruso said is exempt from disclosure.) And although Mr. Fetterman has made numerous investments in the community, the process hasn’t always been smooth.

In 2005, Mr. Fetterman bought three properties in nearby North Braddock for a total of $61,000. Between 2006 and 2012, court records shows, those properties, and one he owned in Braddock, were the subject of more than $11,000 in liens for county and school district property taxes, as well as North Braddock garbage fees.

Wait, what? In addition to establishing a pattern of Fetterman acting like the rules don’t apply to him, this report raises a series of significant questions:

·      Why did he fail to report his mayoral income, as was required by the state? Was that also an “oversight”?

·      What is the extent of the “support” he receives from his family, and what type of transaction is involved? Does his family   write him a check, transfer funds into a bank account, or have they set up a trust fund? If he doesn’t have a bank account, do they give him cash?

·      Will he report the money he receives from his family as a source of income on his senate financial disclosure?

·      Does he pay taxes on the money he receives from his family?

·      Where did he get over $60,000 to buy several houses? That seems to be beyond the “frugal middle-class level” of support Fetterman described.

·      Does he receive payments from any government programs like Medicaid?

·      Does he have any debts or liabilities?

Since Fetterman’s disclosure doesn’t appear to be forthcoming anytime soon, maybe he’ll clear some of this up in the meantime. But based on his past conduct, transparency advocates probably shouldn’t hold their breath.