Senate candidate faced foreclosure, owed back rent in mid 2000s

Hartford - The campaign of Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Chris Murphy played defense Thursday amid revelations that the candidate had briefly faced home foreclosure and apartment eviction proceedings.

A campaign spokesman confirmed that Murphy, currently the 5th Congressional District representative, "inadvertently missed" several mortgage payments in the mid 2000s and was sued in early 2007 by Chase Home Finance.

Four years earlier, Murphy, then a state senator, also had missed rent payments for his Southington apartment.

In both instances, Murphy quickly paid his overdue bills before legal proceedings could progress, according to campaign spokesman Ben Marter.

The missed mortgage payments occurred as Murphy and his then-finance, Catherine, were consolidating their finances, Marter said. "When they found out about it from their bank, they paid in full," he said.

The foreclosure came to light this week in a Hartford Courant column by former Republican state Sen. Kevin Rennie. Citing legal and other documents, Rennie described how Murphy took out two mortgages from Webster Bank - one for $180,000, the second for $22,500 - on a Cheshire house purchased for $225,000.

Murphy's campaign did not dispute published facts in the column, including reports that Webster Bank in 2008 nearly doubled Murphy's home equity line of credit at a 4.99 percent interest rate.

At the time of the credit extension, Murphy sat on the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee and, according to Rennie, received contributions from Webster Bank's political action committee.

Murphy is running against Republican millionaire Linda McMahon in the Nov. 6 election. A recent Quinnipiac University poll had McMahon with a slim 3 percent lead.

McMahon's campaign manager, Corry Bliss, told The Day Thursday that Murphy's rate on the line of credit has the appearance of a possible sweetheart deal.

"There are some very serious questions that Congressman Murphy needs to answer," he said.

Murphy's campaign hotly contested the suggestion that the congressman received preferential treatment from the bank.

"Chris' rate was right in the middle of the average rate at the time," Marter said. "He walked into his local branch and got a mortgage just like anybody else would."

Murphy's 2011 tax return showed him and his wife with a combined income of $220,125. However, Murphy's yearly income as a bachelor in 2005 and 2006 was about $77,000, according to the Courant report.

Marter compared the Murphys' foreclosure experience to that of Linda and Vince McMahon before their wrestling business hit it big in the 1980s. In 1976, a bank foreclosed on their West Hartford home. The McMahons filed for bankruptcy later that same year and discharged debt.

"When McMahon was foreclosed on, she filed for bankruptcy and did not pay her debts and she still hasn't," Marter said. "That's the real difference."

The McMahon campaign on Thursday did not dispute Marter's assertion that the McMahons' did not repay old debt.

Other court documents made available Thursday show that Murphy faced eviction proceedings in December 2003 for nonpayment of rent on a Southington apartment. Those proceedings soon were dropped.

"In 2003, Chris missed rent payments," Marter said. "He paid off the outstanding balance when he found out about the missed payments and continued living in the same apartment for over a year until he moved into his new home."

Marter on Thursday could not provide information on the number of mortgage and rent payments that Murphy missed.

j.reindl@theday.com

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