Sticky financial questions cling to Ferraro
Less than a week before the election, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Geraldine A. Ferraro is still beset by questions about her husband's financial dealings and her own financial disclosures.
More than two months after a two-hour press conference in which she hoped to bury the issue of her family's finances, Ms. Ferraro and members of her staff are still being asked questions (and refusing comment) on current investigations into her husband, John Zaccaro's real estate business.
A spate of articles in the Philadelpia Inquirer, the Wall Street Journal, and New York newspapers have helped keep the issues alive as a Manhattan grand jury investigates two real estate transactions involving Mr. Zaccaro.
Whether Zaccaro is a witness or a subject of the inquiry will not be known until the jury's report is released.
Meanwhile, questions remain as to whether Congresswoman Ferraro should have revealed her partnership in her husband's business and his finances, as well as her own finances on a disclosure form submitted in May 1984 for the 1983 congressional year.
The House ethics committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the adequacy of the Ferraro disclosures. She had claimed that her husband's business and his finances were exempt from disclosure.
The questions, initially brought by a conservative group called the Washington Legal Foundation, began in July as the candidates prepared to file financial disclosure statements with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in Washington.
At first, Ms. Ferraro said her husband would include his tax returns along with hers. He then recanted, but he later changed his mind because he did not want to hurt his wife's campaign, Ferraro told reporters.
After the disclosure, which Ferraro termed one of the most ''comprehensive, wide-ranging disclosures ever,'' the vice-presidential nominee proceeded to answer press questions for two hours.
Among the questions asked were those regarding: back taxes owed, her role as an officer of P. Zaccaro Company (her husband's real estate management company), and the sale of some property she owned. Ferraro, who at the time of the sale was running her first congressional race, used the proceeds to repay an illegal campaign loan made to her by her husband and family. Ferraro explained that she had been originally advised that loan was legal.
Another issue that surfaced during the disclosure, was that of a loan her husband's real estate firm, P. Zaccaro Company, received from an estate he was managing.
Though a New York State Supreme Court justice said there was ''no suggestion of dishonesty or malicious intent'' by Zaccaro, he was removed as overseer by the judge. The loan had already been repaid with interest.
After her day in the hot seat, Ferraro spoke of getting on with the campaign, and she did. Conservatives in Washington have pressed for a House investigation of her financial disclosures, but it seems unlikely that they will get to it before the end of her term. An attorney for the ethics committee would not comment on any investigation.
Several complaints have also been filed with the FEC over her congressional campaign funding. George Washington University law Prof. John F. Banzhaf III, who filed two complaints, says he has not been notified that any investigations have been terminated.
There are, in addition, other questions that have arisen in New York City involving Zaccaro.
Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau is investigating a loan to a business associate of Zaccaro's that came from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Credit Union. The associate, John DeLorenzo, is not a member of the credit union, and thus is ineligible to receive a loan from it. Several sources report that Zaccaro was to share a commission for the loan.
The Wall Street Journal has also reported that two men with past convictions for fraud and extortion, who worked out of the P. Zaccaro Company last year, are figures in the investigation. Zaccaro has hired three criminal lawyers in connection with the inquiry.
One New York lawyer who is active in city politics points out that Mr. Morgenthau has a good reputation as a district attorney, and that if the case were a ''big nothing,'' he would probably drop it. The fact that the investigation is continuing ''is not good'' for Ferraro, he adds.
Ferraro has also had to cope with stories reporting congressional campaign contributions from persons with criminal records as well as a report that Zaccaro had urged a client to sell a building below its real value. Ms. Ferraro has said she intends to focus on the issues for the balance of the campaign.