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Rep. Logan adds loan to election disclosure

Lawyers for the Senate Select Committee on Ethics told his campaign this week that the loan should be reported.

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By TIM NICKENS

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 13, 2000


State Rep. Willie Logan did not report a controversial $63,000 loan from a non-profit agency he heads when he filed financial disclosure forms as a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Logan received the loan from the Opa-locka Community Development Corp. in September, but the 1999 disclosure forms he filed with the secretary of the U.S. Senate in February do not mention the money.

Lawyers for the Senate Select Committee on Ethics told Logan's campaign this week that the loan should be reported following inquiries by the St. Petersburg Times to the committee and Logan's campaign. Logan filed an amended disclosure form Wednesday that lists the loan as a liability.

Logan denies he tried to conceal the loan. A campaign aide, Sean Pittman, said Wednesday he was twice advised by ethics committee lawyers that the loan did not have to be disclosed, but he did not obtain a written opinion.

A spokesman for the ethics committee, Victor Baird, would not confirm or deny whether conversations with the Logan campaign took place. He said he could not comment on whether the loan should have been reported.

In an interview this week, Logan said he did not believe he was required to list the loan because the check was written to Willie Logan Inc., his consulting company. He is the only employee of the consulting company, which has a contract with the development corporation he founded two decades ago that calls for Logan to be the agency's president and chief executive officer.

"I wasn't trying to hide it," Logan said.

An official with a Washington watchdog group and a former staff counsel to the Senate ethics committee said in interviews that Logan should have reported it.

Gary Ruskin, director of the Congressional Accountability Project, said the situation is unusual.

"I can't recall a candidate or a member having a personal corporation where this is an issue of whether or not they could hide (loans)," he said. "I think in one way or another, either as a liability or as income, he'd have to show it. . . . He should have disclosed it."

William Canfield, former senior staff counsel with the ethics committee, agreed. He said whether Logan received the loan directly or through his company is irrelevant.

"It doesn't provide a shield to disclosure, where you create an intermediary and the intermediary takes in an asset and provides you income," Canfield said of disclosure requirements.

Logan is running for the Senate without a party affiliation. He was the first African-American tabbed as the Democrats' choice to lead the Florida House, but he was ousted in 1998 by white Democrats unhappy with his efforts to raise money and recruit candidates.

The controversy reverberated throughout the state and placed Logan in the spotlight. But his Senate campaign is overshadowed by the battle over Gov. Jeb Bush's efforts to replace affirmative action in university admissions and state contracting.

The loan, first disclosed by the Miami Herald this month, came from an agency that uses federal, county and private money to build housing for low-income residents. The money for the loan came from private money the development corporation previously had invested in certificates of deposit, Logan said. He said the certificates of deposit were earning 3 percent interest and he is paying 8 percent, well below interest rates for unsecured bank loans.

Logan said he sought the loan to pay overdue payroll taxes for Willie Logan Inc. and personal tax bills, college tuition bills for himself that were financed with credit cards issued to his corporation, and medical bills for his mother.

While Logan previously said he would seek another loan to pay off the one from the Community Development Corp., he indicated this week he will not replace the loan at any cost.

"To get a loan without collateral and without being wealthy is very difficult," Logan said. "I'm not going to put myself in a worse financial situation."

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