U.S. House Rep. Mike Kelly failed to disclose a half-million dollar mortgage on three consecutive financial disclosure statements, a violation of Congressional disclosure rules.
According to Butler County records, Kelly, who’s represented Pennsylvania’s Third District since 2011, and his wife Victoria bought a house at 202 Gabriel Drive for $582,250 on July 31, 2015. In August of that year, they took out a $481,800 mortgage. Rep. Kelly and his wife sold the house for $649,000 in October 2017, per Butler County records. The mortgage, taken out with PNC Bank, was satisfied a month later.
According to congressional financial disclosure records, Kelly did not inform Congress of the mortgage in 2015, 2016, or 2017, a direct violation of the Committee on Ethics Instruction Guide For Financial Disclosure Statements and Periodic Transaction Reports. Per a selection on page 37 of the guide:
“must report on Schedule D any debts personally owed by you, your spouse, or your dependent children or that are jointly-held at any time with any individual that were over $10,000 during the reporting period.”
Splinter was first alerted to the discrepancy by Democratic PAC American Bridge.
Rep. Kelly is currently running against Democrat Ron DiNicola; per the New York Times, he holds an eight-point lead a week out from the race. In response to Splinter’s request for comment, Rep. Kelly’s spokesperson Thomas Qualtere passed along the following statement:“Our office has filed the necessary amendment with the Clerk’s Office. We are in full compliance with Congressional disclosure rules.”
According to Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center, House disclosure rules differ slightly from those in the Senate. There, officeholders are required to disclose the “approximate amount of the mortgage and the rate,” whereas in the House, representatives have to disclose the mortgage but not the rate. The underlying idea of both of the disclosure rule sets is to inform the public of any potential conflicts of interest, as well as a representative’s financial assets and liabilities.
“The value of mortgage disclosure on the House side is more limited,” Fischer wrote in an email. “It could be useful to identify possible conflicts of interest, such as an officeholder using their official position to impact their mortgage lender. (You could imagine a situation where a Congressman threatens to introduce new banking legislation, or offers to support policies that would benefit their lender, while seeking to refinance their home or renegotiate their mortgage rate.) It could also be useful to identify whether an officeholder is living beyond their means, but that doesn’t seem relevant here.”
Kelly is far from the first member of Congress to initially fail to disclose a large sum of debt or income. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee didn’t disclose millions he made in investments back in 2015. Another Tennessee politician, House Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is running to replace Corker, didn’t tell Congress she took out $100,000 in credit to make repairs to a South Carolina house she co-owned, which was first reported earlier this fall; Maryland Rep. Andy Harris didn’t disclose that his campaign shelled out $26,000 to pay his wife for campaign work; and California Rep. Devin Nunes was scrutinized in July for not disclosing his investment in several California companies.
The House guide states that lawmakers who “knowingly or willfully” withhold information from their disclosure forms could potentially face up to a year in prison or a maximum of a $59,028 fine. As was the case with Nunes, Kelly will likely face little to no retributive action from Congress, as long as his office did indeed file an amendment to his disclosure forms, as indicated by his spokesperson.
You can view Rep. Kelly’s disclosure forms from the past three years below: