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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Is Charlie Dent Trying to Get Rich in Congress?

LVRamblings: In her interview with me, Siobhan Bennett makes this charge: "Charlie Dent has suddenly become wealthy since he became a Congressman. How has that happened? Who is he representing here?" The implication here, of course, is that you're enriching yourself in Congress. Is this true?

Congressman Dent: "It's absolutely false. In fact, if Siobhan Bennett and the truth ever came into contact, there would be a mighty collision."

[At this point, I burst out laughing. Sorry].

"I saw that question and here's my financial disclosure statement, which I must file. It's part of the Ethics in Government Act. It's all filed for public inspection. I hide nothing. Everything is here. Everything I own, my wife owns, everything my kids have, is all listed. I have a lawyer and an accountant go through this. We spend a lot of time doing this. Everything is there. It's transparent, open to the public for inspection and is what it is. Her charge is absolutely false and she really owes my wife an apology for that one as well as me because that was really offensive. When she was confronted by the media, her answer was Big Oil - Big Gas. Well, that's just a bunch of hot air. This is another personal attack . . .

LVRamblings: From "Clean Campaign" Sam . . .

Congressman Dent: "She said this in a public forum, your forum. It's not like it was done on an anonymous blog. It was done in an interview by you - there's no question who said it.

LVRamblings: She said it to me . . .

Congressman Dent: "She said it to you. So, there it is, and in a public forum. I'd be happy to go through anything in my financial disclosure, and I'd like to contrast that with Siobhan Bennett's disclosures."

LVRamblings: Yes, I seem to recall the problems in her first disclosure.

Congressman Dent: "Her first disclosure was ... was pitiful. Pitiful and a disgrace. You would think it would be enough, by itself, to disqualify her from running for any federal office. Here it is. One of the few things we learned there was that her salary at Properties of Merit was $110,000, taking one-third of that nonprofit's budget. But just as interesting to me, the value of her assets at Susquehanna Patriot Bank, was listed at between $25 and $50 million. What's even more remarkable is the amount of interest she received off of that was less than $200."

LVRamblings: That bank must have a low interest policy.

Congressman Dent: "Well, I'll tell you what. I'd get some new financial advisers. If I had $25 million in the bank, I think I could do better than $200.

"So that's her first mistake. Here's her husband's 401k. That's listed at over $50 million. Verizon was her 401k. Again, $25 to $50 million. Apparently, she worked at The Morning Call for a brief period of time. She actually checked this one - between $1,000 to $15,000 in the value of that asset. I guess she got that one right. But on and on, it continues. Over $50 million in Fidelity stock. And what the heck is this? She lists Friends of Siobhan Bennett as a debt between $25 and $50 million. [Dent starts laughing]."

LVRamblings: Wow. She spent a lot of money . . .

Congressman Dent: "When this was all pointed out, she just laughed. Ha. Ha. She laughed it off. But nobody laughed off her salary at Properties of Merit. She was basically taking all of the state money and stuffing it, with both hands, in her pocket.

"That was last year. Now here's this year's financial disclosure. This is even more fun. Last year, she overstated her assets by hundreds of millions of dollars, which puts her in good company with the Kennedys and Rockefellers. But this year, when you look at her supposedly cutting her $110,000 salary in half, it looks like she did not. She actually cut it to $88,000.

"This year, she failed to disclose the value of her assets. Look at the Fidelity 401k, for example. She does not list a value. What's she trying to hide? Last year, she overstated her assets by hundreds of millions of dollars. This year, she failed to disclose her assets to the public as required by law."

LVRamblings: Has anybody reported this?

Congressman Dent: "They're aware of it. My campaign sent out a press release on the subject. I can assure you that, had I overstated my assets by hundreds of millions of dollars, had I failed to disclose my assets in so many cases, if I had taken $110,000 in state funds and shoved them in my pocket, I would not be a candidate for Congress today. She's been given a pass on a lot of this. Part of my campaign will be sure to point these issues out.

"In her clean campaign pledge, you wanna' know what I said? We are going to run our campaign based on public issues, the issues of the day and matters of public record. These are matters of public record. We must file those as a condition to run for the U.S. House of Representatives.

"It's out there for public inspection. Here's my disclosure. By making that false charge at me and my family, she is trying to deflect attention away from her own misdeeds with respect to the filing of these forms and her activities at Properties of Merit, which in my view, present very serious IRS challenges. She has yet to come forward and talk about this in any significant way.

"We'll be happy to talk about it."

LVRamblings: Air Products' workers are major contributors. Air Products gets great treatment when it comes to earmarks. Is this a quid pro quo? Why not simply refuse to take money from anybody affiliated with organizations that get money from the pork barrel? Can you explain dividend payouts from Air Products in 2004, 2005 and 2006?

"I do not own Air Products & Chemicals stock. My wife and I sold it back in January '07. That stock was first purchased long before I was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. I should point out, too, that every member and that Americans, under our laws, are permitted to own stock in publicly traded companies - all Americans, including U.S. Congressmen.

"The only issue for a U.S. Congressman is we have to disclose any assets we have, which I have done.

"On the dividend issue, and it's in the disclosures, you'd see they are less than $200."

LVRamblings: So you managed to secure all that money for Air Products for less than $200?

Congressman Dent: "That seems to be the suggestion."

LVRamblings: I would have held out for at least $300.

Congressman Dent: [Laughing] "Well, it's absurd on its face that somebody who owned a minimal amount of stock in a publicly traded company, and thousands of my constituents own stock there, was doing that to line his pockets.

"There's nothing to that issue of quid pro quo. It's actually offensive. But then again, this is just a deflection from the real issue, and that is that Siobhan Bennett took over $100,000 in state tax funds and shoved those dollars with both hands into her pocket at Properties of Merit.

"In similar situations like this in Pennsylvania, the Executive Director has been forced to pay back the money. There are very serious IRS issues that she must address. This is a deflection away from her own ethical misconduct, which everybody agrees is quite serious. So she'll raise an issue like that, but when most people look at the facts, they realize this is just an absurd charge from a desperate career candidate who is really grasping for straws, concerned about her political life."

LVRamblings: You have free, lifetime Pa. health care afforded to former state legislators instead of federal health care. You don't work for the state any more. Bennett said this "deeply bothers" her. "The only health insurance he's taking care of is his own." She calls it "double dipping." She pledged she won't take any health insurance from Congress until every American has access to the same thing. Your reaction?

Congressman Dent: "Yeah, I saw that question and the only thing I can say about it is my wife and I had a decision to make when we came to Congress. We declined federal health benefits and decided to keep the state benefits."

LVRamblings: How is that "double dipping, by the way?"

Congressman Dent: "It's not, it's not . . ."

LVRamblings: I mean, you're not taking federal benefits and state benefits . . .

Congressman Dent: "My wife and I declined federal benefits and decided to continue with state benefits that we were already eligible for, and that was it. Siobhan will say whatever she says."

LVRamblings: Here's a question I don't really understand fully. I hope you and my readers forgive me. You have deferred your state pension payments (between 50k-100k for 2005 and the same in 2006) from when you were in the state house and senate (opensecrets.org). You deferred another 50k-100k from the state (opensecrets.org). What is this from? Do you plan to receive back payments from those deferrals after you are done in Congress? And what is a PA Tap account? Sounds like you're sitting on a huge taxpayer pay day the day you retire. To be fair, it appears that Alyson Schwartz and Tim Murphy are doing the same thing. Why won't you lead by example and put an end to this kind of abuse?

Congressman Dent: "You didn't understand the question because it wasn't a good question. The question isn't really accurate. I can dissect it for you. The person who wrote the question is confused. I am not eligible to receive a state pension. I'm not old enough. So I do not receive a state pension, it has not been deferred, I'm not eligible to receive it because of my age. I'm 48. That's the first thing. I did not defer my pension; I didn't do anything.

"The second issue here, and I'll show it to you in the disclosure statement, is that I save money. A lot of employers have 401ks. When I was in the state, they had a 'deferred compensation' plan, a 457 plan. Every month, I would take money from my paycheck and stick it in . . . "

LVRamblings: A 401k . . .

Congressman Dent: "It's deferred compensation. It just sits there. It's my money. It came out of my check. I put it in there, and it's valued at between $50,000 and $100,000. Now I think that, as leaders, we like to encourage people to save as much as they possibly can. It's very hard for a lot of people to save money . . ."

LVRamblings: Hey, I'm a hundredaire!

Congressman Dent: [Ignoring the joke]. "But my grandfather, with an 8th grade education, who worked for Union Gas and UGI, was really tight with a buck, and he always told me to save money. He said that's the first thing you do, you take your money and save it . . ."

LVRamblings: Is Ron Angle your financial adviser?

Congressman Dent: [Finally have him laughing] "No. I suspect he had a relative who said the same thing . . ."

LVRamblings: Oh yeah, oh yeah ...

Congressman Dent: "But he told me that ..."

LVRamblings: Jolly Joe Timmer?

Congressman Dent: [Laughing] "I won't touch that one. I won't touch that one."

"I think there was a question in there about tuition assistance, too. That's TAP. That's a 529 plan. It's a state plan. It's a way for you and your wife to save money for your child's education. It's a college savings account.

"The question was not particularly a good one and they were trying to create an issue where there was none."

LVRamblings:The question asks, 'won't you lead by example and put an end to this kind of abuse?' Well, it doesn't look like there's any abuse . . .

Congressman Dent: "By the way, my state pension is calculated the way all other state employees with pensions are calculated. I declined to take the pension rate that state reps. and senators receive, which is a three per cent multiplier. I voted against the pension increase several years ago and did not take the three per cent multiplier. That would have added more value to my pension. I took a pretty big hit voluntarily. So for a person to suggest something untoward is going on ... well, it's not reasonable."
Blogger's Note: Congressman Dent supplied me with financial disclosure statements, which I have uploated to an Internet library. His 2008 Financial Disclosure Statement can be located here. Bennett's initial financial disclosure, which indicates she's a gazillionaire, is located here. Her most recent financial disclosure, which fails to disclose much of anything, is located here.


Anonymous said...

Air you saying the Air Products PAC Air Products executives personally only donated $200 to Dents campaign(s)?

Anonymous said...

Here's what Charley got from Electric Utilities!!!
Constellation Energy $1,000
DTE Energy $1,000
Edison Electric Institute $1,000
Electric Power Supply Assn $1,000
Exelon Corp $5,000
FirstEnergy Corp $1,000
NiSource Inc $2,000
Nuclear Energy Institute $1,000
PPL Corp $10,000
Here is the link:

Anonymous said...

Here's what Charley got from Chemical & Related Manufacturing
Air Products & Chemicals Inc $10,000
BASF Corp $1,000
DuPont Co $1,000
PPG Industries $1,000
Here's the link:

Anonymous said...

Here's what Charley got from all the PAC's which are not from the Lehigh Valley: Outside the Lehigh Valley money !!!
Leadership PACs
21st Century PAC $1,000
American Success PAC $1,000
Buckeye Liberty PAC $1,000
Cmte for the Preservation of Capitalism $5,000
COLE PAC $2,000
Continuing a Majority Party Action Cmte $1,000
Every Republican is Crucial PAC $7,500
Freedom Project $10,000
Freedom Security Prosperity PAC $1,000
Good Fund $1,000
Help America's Leaders $1,000
IRL PAC $1,000
John S Fund $1,000
Longhorn PAC $2,000
Majority In Congress PAC $1,000
Mike PAC $1,000
More Conservatives PAC $1,000
New PAC $2,000
People for Enterprise/Trade/Econ Growth $5,000
Pioneer PAC $2,500
Promoting Republicans You Can Elect $1,000
Prosperity PAC $1,000
RED PAC $5,000
Rely on Your Beliefs $10,000
Sharp Pencil PAC $1,000
Texas Freedom Fund $2,000
TRUST PAC $1,000
Voice for Freedom $1,000
Here's the link:

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:15:

Please re-read the post. This is not about campaign contributions. It is about personal income and financial disclosure. The $200 Rep. Dent talks about was the result of selling off Air Products stock in January '07, which he claims was first purchased long before he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

If you want his campaign contribution information, go to OpenSecrets.org.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:33, 8:37 & 8:45:

Your source links are not live, and they are cut off. Here is Rep. Dent's OpenSecrets.org link.

These are also campaign contributions, and not personal income to be filed in a candidate's financial disclosure reports, which is the topic of discussion here.

And, for anyone who is interested in comparing apples to apples, you can find Rep. Dent's information compared to Ms. Bennett's here. (scroll down to see the challenger's details on each page.)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:33, 8:37, 8:45 - How many of those companies/trade organizations include BUSINESSES with facilities in the 15th district of PA (i.e. employ PA-15 residents and pay PA-15 tax dollars)?

I really see NO ISSUE with an elected official supporting LOCAL interests! That's what they are supposed to do!! I'd rather my Congressman was supporting Pennsylvania interests than the issues of people in Chicago and San Francisco!!!!

Take off your blinders (or get out of the Sam Bennett campaign office) and think about this logically.

Jeff from Macungie

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'll ditto what has been said to Anon 8:33, 8:37, 8:45. This post is about Charlie's personal finances, not campaign contributions. And the answer to eveil Big Oil is that Dent accepts contributions from people who work in this district, many of whom work for Air Products or PPL or UGI. His grandfather worked for UGI.

What these in-district contributions evince is that people who live here like him. What bennett's contributions evince is quite the opposite.

Anonymous said...

"What these in-district contributions evince is that people who live here like him."

If you want to convince yourself that, it is fine. In many cases I'm sure it is true but to make that statement so broadly is false.

Many of the PAC's associated with local corporations force all employee's over a certain pay grade to contribute heavily to their PAC and they (senior officials at the company) decide who gets the money based on the interest of the company, not the community. Period.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Like a union PAC, huh?

Anonymous said...

I do not support either candidate but charlie dent was wealthy 20 years ago before he took one step into politics. miss bennett honestly ! get another line.

Anonymous said...


Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 12:52,

It is little love notes from people like you that convince me I'm on the right track.

Anonymous said...

Unions offer donations to candidates from the Unions.

PAC donate money claiming it comes from individual employees.

In either case, the individual does not decide who gets the money but at least with Unions the transaction is (more) honest about where the money is actually coming from.

Chris Miller said...

Anonymous 3:35 PM
As to Union giving, they are the biggest bunch of arm twisters and thieves that currenlty exist on this planet. The PSEA took my dues and simply place money into the hands of people I would never support. Now the unions want to stop the secret ballot. Yeah, unions, their great. Sam Gompers is rolling in his grave.

J. SPIKE ROGAN said...

Chris, sorry to burst your Libertarian?Republican bubble. But Unions are not the biggest theives on earth, multinational corporations and Neo_cons are!

They stole peoples freedom, jobs, our economy, and sanitty. what for their most important need G-R-E-E-D!

Globalization, "Free" Trade, I could go on and on. But its pointless arguing with someone who prefers the wool stays over their eyes.

As for the all caps anon. Vice President Quyale glad to see you read this.

Have a baked "POTATOE" on me. I hear they taste like a potato!

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