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Michael Smerconish Headshot

Rick Santorum - Exposed!

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I know Rick Santorum. I've often been in his company.

He appears regularly on my radio show. We've ridden the train to Washington together. He once gave me a ride in his Jeep. And, at a campaign rally, he introduced my son to the President.

Yes, you could say that Rick Santorum has been a friend of mine.

But now I'm second-guessing the relationship. What choice do I have, really, in light of last week's expose of his finances linked right here on Huffington Post?

Frankly, until I read the full article from The American Prospect, I didn't appreciate what rises to the level of political scandal these days. But if that which was covered in the reportage meets the mark - and it must, given the word choice (unorthodox, unconventional, improper), then I must be sitting on a powder keg of information.

The story featured the Senator's smug mug and included some shocking claims concerning his personal finances. Like many who read it, I was appalled to learn that Senator Santorum owns a home, subject to some nefarious lending scheme called "a mortgage," which obligates him to repay borrowed money to a bank at a competitive interest rate. What skullduggery!

That wicked revelation would alone justify support for his electoral challenger, but for the Philadelphia Inquirer's cutting-edge follow-up, which revealed that Bob Casey Jr. also employs the same method to finance his home. In fact, both Casey and Santorum have been known to actually make an extra payment every so often as part of a clever means of reducing their outstanding principle. The chutzpah of these men!

But, as reported, Santorum's personal and financial transgressions go beyond the clever "mortgage" used to buy his home. The man, it turns out, drinks Starbucks coffee while holding court with political supporters and may once have enjoyed a $4.48 Ben and Jerry's ice-cream cone. (If forensics confirms that it was Cherry Garcia, I intend to use this column space to call for an investigation led by the likes of Plamegate inquisitor Patrick Fitzgerald.)

And there's reason to believe we may have seen just the tip of the iceberg.

On the heels of the revelation that Santorum has a mortgage at market rate and that he does not himself pay for work-related expenses comes the news that he established a charity that pays out money to the needy, which is clearly a malversation.

The Senator's efforts yielded only $501,000 in donations to the homeless and those with AIDS from 2001 to 2004.

The gall of the man, giving only a half-million to the less fortunate!

Enough already! I'm pushed over the edge. In the name of my children, I must come clean about the Rick Santorum I've known.

As a public servant, he's no George Smathers. The junior senator from Pennsylvania has baggage of the worst kind:

• For starters, Rick Santorum is a shameless extrovert. Indeed, this man who is a self-proclaimed defender of the American family has actually practiced nepotism with his sister-in- law.

And it gets worse.

• At last year's ballyhooed Pennsylvania Society gathering, I personally overheard Rick Santorum express his fondness for the work of a New York City-based thespian!

Do I have your attention yet? Because here comes the motherlode.

• Rick Santorum might currently be married to Karen Santorum, but before that heterosexual matrimony, he was known to practice celibacy. And not just once. We're talking habitually!

A surprise? Not when you know the rest.

• See, while it has been an acknowledged part of his biography that Rick Santorum graduated from Penn State, few are aware that he once matriculated with Happy Valley coeds.

The Senator is just not the highbinder you may have imagined.

It's an ugly story, all right. What relief that the truth is out!