So the AP picked up our story on Rep. Jim Ryun’s (R-KS) townhouse deal. Let’s look at what he came up with in his statement – he refused to be interviewed about it. There are some gaping holes in his story.
To repeat the facts: the U.S. Family Network bought the house in 1999 and sold it about two years later for a $19,000 loss, when they should have sold it for about a $100,000 gain in that market, according to experts we spoke to.
And the USFN wasn’t just any old political organization – they were a front group that Ed Buckham used to funnel in $2.3 million from Jack Abramoff’s clients. The money propped up Buckham’s lobbying firm Alexander Strategy Group, paid for the townhouse which also housed Tom DeLay’s political committee, and generally helped fund Abramoff’s and DeLay’s political machine.
So let’s just focus on the USFN for a second. Ryun’s spokeswoman told the AP that “Ryun ‘was not specifically lobbied by USFN’ and that the group has not made any contributions to his campaign.”They weren’t lobbied by the USFN? The USFN wasn’t even a lobbying organization. Buckham’s Alexander Strategy Group was, though. USFN’s Chris Geeslin told us that “ASG was in charge of marketing the townhouse.” Buckham used the USFN as his slush fund. So more to the point is whether ASG ever lobbied Ryun. What does Ryun have to say about that? (His office didn’t immediately reply to our call, and anyway there’s no reason to believe they’ll start returning our calls now.)
And to the specifics about the house sale. They avoided using a realtor, and as it sounds from Ryun’s narrative of events, entered into private negotiations with ASG. Were there any other bidders for such a prime piece of real estate? Somehow I’m not assured they really arrived at “fair market value.”
Even considering the “structural deficiency” Ryun says they found in the house ($20,000 to fix), and the fact that USFN was spared the cost of an agent’s commission (around, they say, $24,600), the house appears to have been undervalued by around $60,000.
And then there’s this:
To bolster his argument, Ryun’s office released documents showing that another home on the same block was sold for $409,000 on the same day he bought his home. Property records show the other home is on a land area about half the size of Ryun’s and is now assessed at $236,000 less than Ryun’s home.
If there’s a good explanation for his deal, Ryun hasn’t provided it yet.