Santorum talks plain - but is a slick beltway insider

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WASHINGTON - Rick Santorum is racking up votes in Alabama with his folksy "just plain Rick" appeal, suggesting that the time is ripe to apply some scrutiny to his slippery-slimy record.

The former Republican Senator from Pennsylvania casts himself as the grandson of coalminers, digging for votes in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination.

Yet in 2006, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, put Santorum on its list of "Most corrupt members of Congress." CREW cites Santorum's 2007-2010 tax returns, asking how this man who claims he comes from humble means managed to wangle a $2 million house on five acres in Great Falls, Va.

Santorum paid "$0" and appended a note "no consideration," meaning he paid nothing to Creamcup Trust, the entity he and James Sack set up to handle the mortgage, a coal miner's dream come true.

This cozy deal for Santorum came at a time when plenty of folks in coal country were struggling to keep their homes out of foreclosure. Sack is the owner of a Virginia home developer and mortgage finance company whose employees contributed the maximum allowed under federal law to Republican candidates for high office in Virginia.

The same tax return reports that Santorum registered his corporate consulting firm in Virginia, naming the entity "Excelsior LLC."

Through Excelsior LLC, Santorum paid himself $2 million in fees for the years 2007-2010 until the state of Virginia caught up with the former U.S. Senator. They charged him with failing to pay the $50 annual registration fee. CREW points out that during the lapsed registration, Santorum continued to do business under the "Excelsior LLC" label, a Class 1 Misdemeanor, "which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500." Caught red-handed in the crime, Santorum paid the fee, late charges, and fines.

Santorum also reported that he raked in a total of $395, 414 from Universal Health Services, a hospital chain based in Wilmington, Delaware. While Santorum was serving on the UHS Board of Directors, the U.S. Department of Justice filed criminal charges that the firm, a "Fortune 500" company,  had fraudulently billed the Federal Government for Medicaid services not rendered.

The DOJ complaint accused UHS of having "taken advantage of troubled children in order to feed their own wealth for profit."

Whistleblower Barbara Jones, a UHS employee, was ordered by her employer to "fabricate" a fraudulent Medicaid claim form. She was warned that she would not be paid until she completed the fake form. When she refused, she was fired and then denied whistleblower protection.

Santorum has since resigned from UHS. But why isn't he asked about these crimes committed during his tenure at the firm?

It brings back simmering charges of Santorum's kingpin role in the infamous "K Street Project," which he has been struggling to bury now that he is running hard for the GOP nomination.

Santorum stoutly denies any truth to the allegations that he and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, met with GOP lobbyist-in-chief Grover Norquist. During these meetings, the three Republican ringleaders hatched a scheme to remove Democratic lobbyists from the largest corporate lobby corporations, mostly on K Street, and replace them with hardline Republicans.  The plan included a blunt warning to the lobby firms that if they sent Democrats to the hill, Republican lawmakers would not meet with them. They would be frozen out of Capitol Hill meetings. Republican lobbyists, on the other hand, would get the red-carpet treatment.

DeLay has since been tried and convicted in Texas for corporate racketeering and has dropped out of sight.

Soon after stories circulated of Santorum's role in the "K-Street Project," the Jack Abramoff scandal erupted, exposing the "government for hire" corruption in Washington, D.C., under the George W. Bush regime.

Santorum hastily cut his ties and unleashed a storm of charges that he was being unfairly tarred with charges of links to the K Street Project.

The Washington Post "Fact Checker" biography of Santorum proved to no one's surprise that Santorum had indeed met with Norquist and hosted a meeting for Norquist in which the "K Street Project" was discussed and approved.

"Yeah, we had a meeting and yeah we talked about making sure that we have a fair representation on K Street," Santorum told Roll Call newspaper in 2004. "I admit that I pay attention to who is hiring, and I think it's important for leadership to pay attention."

Santorum later told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, "The K Street Project is purely to make sure we have qualified applicants for positions that are in town ... It's a good government thing."

Estimates of the total number of lobbyists in D.C. is now close to 90,000. Despite his "aw, shucks" denials, Santorum was one of them.

Photo: Gage Skidmore  // CC 2.0

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