Saturday, July 09, 2005

Duke's Woes

If you need to familiarize yourself with the ongoing saga of Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, please check out Josh Marshall's excellent coverage. In the latest installment, Duke managed to swing a loan from a corrupt real estate developer in order to buy a condo from another corrupt real estate developer. In November 2001, Duke bought an Arlington VA condo from Joseph M. Della Ratta for $350,000 which he then turned around and sold in March 2004 for $500,000. Once again, Duke seems to be an excellent salesman. Just four months earlier the two bedroom condo exactly below Duke's sold for only $389,900. In fact, just one month before Duke sold his condo, a similar one seven floors down went for only $354,000. Perhaps the difference in sale prices was because his condo was in better shape or, being on a higher floor, had a better view, but Duke does have a knack for turning real estate deals to his advantage.

It seems to me that the larger issue has moved beyond Duke since, regardless of the propriety of this particular transaction, his days are numbered. The real issue is whether Congress will tighten its financial disclosure rules to include personal property. Someone obviously dropped the dime on Duke, but how many other members of Congress might have also gotten such sweetheart deals? I can't imagine that Duke is the only member crafty of enough to have figured out such a huge loophole. Hard to tell since they don't have to disclose information on personal residences.

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