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Living too large

Long Beach Rep. Richardson, who mismanaged three mortgages, needs to keep her house in order.

June 04, 2008

Now that Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach) has won her party's nomination to her first full term in the House, she can spend some time getting her own financial house -- houses, actually -- in order. As reported by the Capitol Weekly and the Daily Breeze, she skipped mortgage payments on her residence in Long Beach, another house in San Pedro and, for good measure, a third one she bought in Sacramento during her abbreviated stint as a state lawmaker.

Richardson shorted the Sacramento County tax collector by about $9,000 in property taxes on her home south of the state Capitol. Capitol Weekly reported that she bought that house with no money down, then walked away from the loan and left the bank holding the bag. The house was sold at auction, but the congresswoman said the sale was improper and that she and her lender have renegotiated her loan. Let's hope that she hasn't yet bought herself a new place in Washington.

Richardson explained to the Associated Press that, after all, she has had four job changes in four months. And besides, her new jobs required her to move to new cities. There is a mortgage crisis nationwide, and many people are having trouble making payments now that their adjustable rates have shot up just as their properties' values have plummeted. So it's tempting to cut her some slack.

But the congresswoman is not just one more person tempted by a sub-prime loan or two. She skipped payments to her lenders and her government in order to fund her political races. She refinanced her Long Beach house and lent the proceeds to her Assembly campaign. She was still a freshman member of that body when Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald died, and Richardson transferred part of the proceeds to her successful campaign to fill out the late congresswoman's last term. Meanwhile, the Daily Breeze reported, she failed to pay bills to other creditors, such as the Signal Hill printer that filled her order for announcements of her election to Congress.

Richardson is not the typical American with a housing problem. She is a politician who overextended herself to meet her campaign goals and believed there would be no political consequences. And she's right. If her financial sloppiness had become public a year ago, she might never have been elected to Congress. She had little difficulty raising money to campaign against a couple of challengers in Tuesday's primary, and she faces no Republican opponent in November. Now that she has a safe district and a virtual sinecure in office, we are hoping that her experience teaches her something about responsibility. But we're worried it might instead teach her that a member of Congress can get away with pretty much anything.

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