Thursday, March 30, 2006

TCJ Picks up on Ryun sweetheart deal

Chris Moon in Thursday's Topeka Capital-Journal

"Ryun says home buy wasn't sweet deal"

Kansas Congressman Jim Ryun on Wednesday was trying to clear himself of political allegations he was involved in a dubious real estate deal five years ago.

The matter is part of the fallout from recent ethical scandals that have shaken Washington, D.C.

Ryun, R-Kan., purchased a Washington townhouse in 2000 from a nonprofit organization that had close ties to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who are at the center of a federal ethics shake-up.

The question is whether Ryun got a sweetheart deal on his townhouse, where he lives while in Washington.

Real estate records show he bought the home for $19,000 less than its sale price from two years earlier, despite escalating property values in the nation's capital. Since then, its appraised value has ballooned to $764,000.

Democrats pounced, implying the sale was a favor from corrupt characters in Washington.

"It's been said that you can judge a person by the company they keep, and this shows what kind of company Jim Ryun keeps in Washington," said Mike Gaughan, director of the Kansas Democratic Party, who sent a statement Wednesday blasting the Republican congressman from Lawrence.
Paul Kiel who broke the story at TPM Muckraker says
There are some gaping holes in his story.
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.

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.

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