With tongues still wagging about Chris Murphy’s 2007 brush with foreclosure there were questions about whether he would show up at an annual political gathering called the Crocodile Club.
He did and he brought his humor with him.
The Crocodile Club, which is a one-day political gathering at Lake Compounce, celebrates legislation passed more than 131 years ago moving the town line between Bristol and Southington. The entertainment includes three-minute non-partisan speeches from politicians running for office.
Linda McMahon, Murphy‘s Republican opponent in the U.S. Senate race, attended the event too, but left before she could give a speech. Asked about what she may have said if she had a chance, McMahon sidestepped the question and said she was focused on getting to the rest of the events on her calendar.
That left an opening for Murphy’s first joke.
“Tomorrow I can debut my new ad about McMahon’s zero percent Crocodile Club attendance record,” he said as he took the podium.
McMahon has been running ads about Murphy’s attendance record at public hearings during his first term in office.
“I was a little bit late getting here I had a really busy morning this morning. I had to drop my little four year old off at the day care, I had to pick up the dry cleaning, I had to pay my mortgage,” Murphy said as the crowd laughed and clapped. “Listen, I’m kind of kicking myself now. I realized I got this all wrong, instead of having to pay back my debts if I had just declared bankruptcy I could be running on it right now. It could be the centerpiece of my campaign.”
McMahon declared bankruptcy in 1976 while she was trying to build the WWE with her husband Vince. Their financial woes, according to a Hartford Courant story, were also tied to a money-losing deal to simulcast motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel’s jump over the Snake River in Idaho in 1974.
McMahon’s made her financial troubles in her early years a central focus of her campaign, but very few official court records remain. Asked if she would share any copies she had McMahon said they don’t exist. She said she tried to find them, but was unable.
“Those records were just not available,” McMahon said. “That was 1976. And we didn’t hang onto those.”
She said her bankruptcy as a private citizen is far different than Murphy’s foreclosure as a sitting Congressman and elected official.
Murphy’s campaign called on McMahon to release her bankruptcy records to the public.
“I just think there’s a whole different issue between Congressman Murphy and me,” McMahon said Friday. “I think he needs to address the issues that have been raised.”
At issue, is whether Murphy got a “sweetheart” deal on his loans from Webster Bank.
Murphy’s original 2005 mortgage was with Webster Bank but it was sold to Chase Home Finance. It was with Chase Home Finance when he defaulted on the $180,000 mortgage in March 2007. Chase dropped the foreclosure lawsuit two months after filing it. Murphy represented himself in the proceedings.
In July 2008 Murphy took out a $43,000, 25-year home equity line of credit with 4.99 percent rate from Webster Bank, according land records in Cheshire.
At the time he received the home equity he was a member of the House Committee on Financial Services which regulated banks.
“Congressman Murphy was able to get approved for a sweetheart home loan deal at a below-market bank rate of 4.99% shortly after defaulting on his mortgage,“ Corry Bliss, McMahon’s campaign manager said in a statement Friday. “And Congressman Murphy voted to give a $400 million bailout to the same bank that gave him that below-market loan, the same bank he previously worked for as a private lawyer, and the same bank he received campaign contributions from. Those are irrefutable FACTS.”
Murphy denied he got any special treatment from Webster Bank. The bank also put out a statement saying the mortgage and home equity loans “conformed to all underwriting guidelines.”
According to Webster the loans were “approved with no exceptions and were priced in line with the prevailing market rates and terms.”
The credit line was repaid when the home was sold in 2010, the bank said.
Murphy sold the home he was foreclosed on for $$246,000 in March 2010 and moved into another Cheshire home, which he bought for $477,500.
“It’s been a public record for years, so it’s not like I was trying to hide it,” Murphy said.
He said he took steps immediately to pay it back. He said he didn’t know how many payments he missed, but it happened when he was being sworn into Congress and as a newly wed merging his finances with his new bride.
“As soon as I found out I made a mistake I paid back my creditors and that’s a statement about values,” Murphy said Friday.
Murphy said charges that he got a “sweetheart deal“ on the rate from Webster was “ridiculous.”
“I applied to Webster Bank just like any of their customers would,” Murphy said.
He said McMahon went to court to avoid paying her debts.
“I felt I had an obligation to pay back the debts that I owed, Linda McMahon didn’t feel like she had an obligation to do the same thing,” he added.