Lawmakers reaped $50K-plus in freebies in ’06

Mark Scolforo reports on the gifts and other financial interests report by lawmakers. Not suprisingly, legislative leaders cashed in (even while claiming they were not):

House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese’s $6,200 in “travel, lodging and hospitality” last year included a trip to Super Bowl XL in Detroit, where he watched the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks. DeWeese attributed $1,944 of that trip’s cost to the Steelers.

Less than two weeks after the game, DeWeese, D-Greene, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he had paid out of his own pocket for the tickets and “every nickel of hospitality,” including his transportation, hotel room and meals. His spokesman was unable to immediately explain the apparent discrepancy Thursday.

Rep. John M. Perzel, R-Philadelphia, then the House speaker, reported receiving $4,100 in transportation costs from Advance America, Cash Advance Centers Inc., to attend the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

High credit card debts (and unusually high interest rates – related to missing payments) were also reported:

Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Philadelphia, revealed a credit card balance with a 24.99 percent interest rate and that he accepted an interest-free loan from his longtime administrative assistant, Dorothy Kelly.

High credit-card interest rates were also reported by Rep. Douglas Reichley, R-Lehigh, and Rep. Donald R. Walko Jr., D-Allegheny.

“I missed the due date for the card, so the rate went up astronomically,” said Reichley, whose 27.99-percent card is with AAA Financial Services. He said the balance was “nominally above” the $6,500 reporting threshold.

Walko said a couple of missed payments resulted in a 28.49 percent interest rate from Chase Bank. A home refinancing that fell through complicated his money problems, he said.

Rep. Reichley and Walko, incidently, serve on the House Appropriations Committee, where they have a credit limit of $75,565,193,000, a balance of $8,147,050,000, and a payment due of $942,236,000. I sure hope we get a better intest rate than 25%.