A Sweet Deal

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Hey, aren’t we all looking for a safe and lucrative investment in these troubled times? Grace Napolitano, a Democratic congresswoman from California, seems to have found one–her own campaign–according to this report from Tim Burger at Bloomberg:

Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) — 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.

And, yes, apparently that’s legal. But you have to wonder what her campaign contributors think when they get these kinds of requests.:

Last year, when Napolitano faced only token opposition for a sixth term, her campaign sought $500 from individuals and $1,500 from political action committees at a June 25 Washington fundraiser. The money was to go at least in part for “1998 primary debt retirement,” according to her campaign Web site.

Oh, wait, it looks like they are fine with it:

From May 15 to Aug. 4, 2008, Napolitano’s FEC filing says she collected money from five political action committees that designated the funds for the 1998 primary. Contributors included PACs associated with Edison International, the owner of California’s largest electric utility; Parsons Corp., an engineering and construction company in Pasadena, California; and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. Other donors included Fannie Mae and the National Community Pharmacists Association.

Edison spokeswoman Lauren Bartlett said in an e-mail that its PAC donates to debt retirement “in rare cases.”

Lisa Camooso Miller, vice president of public affairs at the community pharmacists’ group, said the association gave $1,500 to Napolitano for debt repayment and wrote a separate $1,000 check to be allocated at the lawmaker’s discretion. An FEC filing by Napolitano’s campaign earmarks the full $2,500 to the 1998 debt.

Supporting Members

Dave Bauer, a spokesman for the road builders, said the group gave to the debt-reduction effort because “we feel like supporting debt retirement is supporting the member of Congress.”

Fannie Mae spokesman Chuck Greener had no immediate comment. The mortgage-finance company closed its PAC after the federal government’s September takeover. Erin Kuhlman, corporate relations vice president for Parsons, declined comment.

Through year’s end, Napolitano had reported no payments for loan interest or principal since the June 25 fundraiser.

Their eagerness to continue giving money to the non-retirement of her debt may have something to do with this:

Napolitano is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee’s water and power subcommittee and a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.