BOSTON (AP) - Republicans are faulting Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Edward Markey for his involvement in a so-called "rubber check" episode from the early 1990s, during which he and other members of Congress wrote checks with insufficient funds from a members-only bank.
The General Accounting Office issued a report in 1991 that found 134 House members had bounced 8,331 checks at the U.S. House of Representatives bank. There were no penalties for bouncing the checks, in effect granting the politicians interest-free loans from the money their colleagues deposited.
Markey was among those found to have written checks with insufficient funds.
Massachusetts GOP Chairman Kirsten Hughes said Monday that Markey "got a sweetheart deal from an exclusive bank to avoid the fees that working families have to pay when they overdraw their accounts."
An aide to Markey quickly fired back, saying Republicans are trying to distract attention away from a spate of stories detailing how Markey's Republican challenger Gabriel Gomez took a $281,000 tax deduction for promising not to alter his historic Cohasset home.
"Leave it to the national Republicans to dig up a 20-year old news story about unintentional overdrafts from members of Congress that Ed Markey apologized for, and voted to prevent from ever happening again," said Markey spokesman Andrew Zucker in a statement.
Markey supporters noted that he was cleared of wrongdoing by the Justice Department and that no taxpayer dollars were involved. Markey ultimately voted along with other members of the House to close the bank.
Earlier Monday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee released an Internet video faulting Markey for writing "bad checks from an exclusive Congressional Bank that was eventually shut down during the surrounding scandal."
"Perhaps bouncing a check or two could be explained as an honest mistake, but writing 92 bad checks suggests something far worse," the group's communications director Brad Dayspring said in a press release.
Zucker, meanwhile, said Gomez has yet to answer critical questions about the tax break he took on his Cohasset home, and still won't say how much he benefited from it.
Gomez said he's done nothing wrong and has criticized Markey for suggesting he'd done anything to break the rules.
Under the deal, Gomez and his wife entered into an agreement with the nonprofit National Architectural Trust in late 2005 which allowed them to take the tax deduction on the home they bought for $2.1 million in 2004.
As part of the agreement, the couple gave the trust control of the facade of the home, which was counted as a monetary donation to the group. Local bylaws had already prevented changes to the facade of the home raising questions about whether the easement awarded to the trust had monetary value.
Gomez, who has already released six years of his tax returns, has also continued to press Markey to release his returns.
Markey campaign officials have said they plan to release some of his tax returns.
Markey and Gomez are vying for the seat left vacant by the resignation of John Kerry when he became secretary of state. The June 25 special election is the third Senate election in Massachusetts in the past four years.