Phil Bredesen and Marsha Blackburn speak at an opioid epidemic summit in Nashville
George Walker IV and Michael Schwab
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn did not disclose taking out a $100,000 line of credit from a bank last year to cover the costs to repair a house she co-owns in South Carolina, according to her most recent financial disclosures.
And since buying the house in 2014, Blackburn has frequently failed to pay property taxes for the home on time, resulting in thousands of dollars in penalties, according to South Carolina property records.
On her latest House financial disclosure, Blackburn, who is the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, did not disclose her involvement with Down Yonder Properties LLC — a company which owns a four-bedroom, three-bathroom home in Daufuske Island, South Carolina.
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In previous years, she included the company on her disclosures, saying she was a “member” of the company, which is registered to a home in Nashville owned by Blackburn’s daughter, Mary, and son-in-law, Paul Ketchel.
The company initially bought the South Carolina property in 2014, paying $280,000, according to Beaufort County property records.
Blackburn disclosed her involvement with Down Yonder in 2015 and 2016, when she reported she was a member on her annual financial statement.
In 2017, Blackburn disclosed she had a liability valued between $100,001 and $250,000 for a “mortgage on property owned by LLC.”
This year, after getting a 90-day extension to file her disclosure, Blackburn did not document having any interest or investment with Down Yonder, despite the fact that she co-signed a document in August 2017 to obtain a $100,000 revolving line of credit.
Blackburn’s son-in-law was the other person to sign the line of credit document. He was the only person to sign documents on behalf of Down Yonder, when the company obtained a $224,000 mortgage in 2014 to purchase the property.
Blackburn’s latest financial disclosure only lists her liabilities tied to two mortgages she has on her personal residence. It is not clear if both mortgages are for the same property.
Abbi Sigler, a spokeswoman for Blackburn’s campaign, said the South Carolina home went from being a rental to a personal asset. As such, Sigler said Blackburn is not required to disclose the property.
When asked about the $100,000 line of credit Blackburn helped secure for the home, Sigler said, “(It) was used to renovate the personal home following storm damage.”
House rules require members to disclose lines of credit.
“Members must report any mortgage, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit on any property that is personal – even if the property did not generate any income – if the liability totaled more than $10,000 at any point during the reporting period,” a House ethics committee instruction guide on financial disclosures for the 2017 calendar year says.
Although lawmakers occasionally face criticism for issues related to their financial disclosures, they are rarely punished for needing to update their records.
For instance, when U.S. Sen. Bob Corker failed to disclose millions of dollars in income he earned from real estate in 2015, he simply amended his initial report.
House lawmakers who “knowingly or willfully” leave information out of their financial disclosures could face criminal or civil penalties, including a $59,000 fine or up to one year in prison, according to the House instruction guide.
Blackburn’s lack of reporting of the line of credit has drawn the ire of state and national groups.
“Failing to disclose a property in this manner is a violation of House ethics rules and raises serious questions about the congresswoman’s motives,” said Amelia Penniman, deputy communications director of Senate campaigns for American Bridge 21st Century, a Democrat-aligned Super PAC.
“Rep. Blackburn is acting as if the rules don’t apply to her, and she shouldn’t be surprised when voters think twice about trusting her as a result.”
Mark Brown, a Tennessee Democratic Party communications aide, said Blackburn has a history of playing “DC games” her financial disclosures and campaign finances.
In 2008, Blackburn said an audit of her campaign finances found more than $400,000 in incorrectly reported or unreported donations, dating back to her run for Congress in 2002, according to The Tennessean’s archives. She later revised her campaign reports.
“Tennesseans can’t trust her to come clean about how much money flows through her various bank accounts,” Brown said. “It’s time for her to come home, whether that’s to her house in Brentwood or her house on an exclusive island outside Hilton Head.”
Every year since Blackburn and her family bought the South Carolina property, they have failed to pay their property taxes on time, according to records with the Beaufort County tax assessor. That’s resulted in the family racking up more than $2,600 in penalties.
Sigler did not respond to a question about Blackburn’s failure to pay the house’s property taxes on time.
Reach Joel Ebert at [email protected] or 615-772-1681 and on Twitter @joelebert29.
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