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Santorum's Residency is Still an Issue

He has two homes in two states, has claimed residency in both this year—and his newest home in Virginia has a purchase price of $0 listed, opening the door to more questions.

At the Iowa Straw Poll in August, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum handed out samples of what he dubbed “Pennsylvania Presidential Peach Preserves.”

According to a story in the Des Moines (IA) Register, he told a crowd at the Perry Public Library that he, his wife Karen and their children had harvested 600 early peaches from their fruit trees back home, peeled them and made them into 40 jars of peach preserves to take with them to the Straw Poll.

It’s unlikely the peaches came from the $106,000 Penn Hills, PA, home Santorum still—sometimes—claims as his residence. Other than in the supermarkets of the post-World War II suburb that borders Pittsburgh, the only place to find the product of 600 peaches in Penn Hills might be in the juice flavoring used by Turner Dairy Farms to manufacture its peach ice tea.

More likely they came from the yard or nearby the $1.26 million house where his family actually lives in Great Falls, VA.

The question of residency continues to haunt the former U.S. senator even as he rises in the polls before the Jan. 3, 2012 Iowa Caucus kicks off the presidential election year. He talked about Pennsylvania peaches in Iowa in August as though he lived in the Keystone State, yet in a Dec. 14 Charlotte Observer story, Santorum said he is a Virginia resident.

The reason the residency scrutiny continues is that, during his first bid for the 18th District U.S. Congressional seat in 1990, Santorum attacked then-Congressman Doug Walgren, a Democrat, for living in McLean, VA, instead of western Pennsylvania for most of the year. Yet Santorum did the same thing when he served in the U.S. Senate.

Pennsylvania or Virginia?

According to the Allegheny County Office of Property Assessment website,  Santorum and his wife, Karen, own a house at 111 Stephens Lane in Penn Hills, purchased for $87,800 on Nov. 24, 1997. The 1.5-story white house is off a pothole-ridden, narrow lane and has a gravel driveway leading up to it.

The 18,447-square-foot lot where the house sits is maintained but hardly manicured. The seven-room house has 2,071 square feet of livable space, including three bedrooms and two full bathrooms, which would mean close quarters for the nine-member Santorum family.

“The neighbors will tell you they never lived there,” said Erin Vecchio, former chairperson of the Penn Hills Democratic Committee, who has challenged Santorum on a number of issues related to his residency. “Whenever it benefits him is when he claims to live here." 

According to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story, Santorum lived in Mt. Lebanon when elected to Congress in 1990. He sold that house in 1995, after he won his bid for the U.S. Senate seat, and bought a house in Herndon, VA.

Then, in 1997, the couple purchased the Penn Hills house. The Santorums sold the Herndon house in 2001 and bought one for $643,361 in Leesburg, VA.

According to Fairfax (VA) County Department of Tax Administration’s website,  the Santorums purchased a house assessed at $1.26 million in Great Falls, VA, on June 26, 2009. But according to the website, they paid $0, though that might be misleading.

The former owner is listed as “James M. Sack TR"—“TR” stands for “trust." Sack, a business tax attorney from McLean, VA, whose website says he “regularly provides tax and business advice related to transactional matters, third party negotiation, restructuring of loans and other business arrangements,” purchased the house on Aug. 31, 2007 for $2 million, $560,000 more than the previous owner had paid four years earlier and more than its current assessment.

What raises questions about the sales transaction is that the four previous sales of the house list "valid and verified sale" in the website notes about the property. However, the transaction between Sack, a Republican campaign contributor, and Santorum says "no consideration" in the note section, according to Fairfax County records. That opens the question as to what circumstances surrounded the sale and whether Santorum actually paid for the house.

Fairfax officials could not be reached for a further explanation because of the holiday weekend.

The two-story Virginia house at 10607 Creamcup Lane sits on a five-acre lot, has 4,899 square feet of livable space, an 800-square-foot swimming pool, four bedrooms and one den/bedroom, four-and-a-half baths and three fireplaces. The house has a bit more space than the Penn Hills one for Santorum’s three daughters and four sons, who range in age from 20 to 3. 

Mail, tax and voting issues

Santorum’s residency issue came to light in 2004 during two incidents where it was apparent that the U.S. senator had not been receiving mail delivered to his Penn Hills address, which has a 15147 Verona ZIP code.

In November 2004, the Penn Hills Progress reported that Santorum had failed to appear for jury duty at Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas that July. He said at the time that he never received the notice sent to his Penn Hills home to serve as juror.

The senator had the same complaint that April when former Progress reporter Vera Miller called his Washington, D.C., office asking why he had not paid his delinquent 2002 municipal property taxes of $275. A Santorum family member paid off the delinquent tax bill a few days after the reporter's call.

Penn Hills School District filed a delinquent tax claim in the county courthouse in March 2001 for $222, but Santorum did not pay the bill until March 2002.

In 2010, Santorum was again delinquent in paying his Allegheny County property taxes on the Stephens Lane home, which totaled $487.20 and were due April 30, 2010. He paid the outstanding tax, $24.86 penalty and $14.91 interest on Aug. 4, 2010. This year, his taxes were paid on time.

Another tax-related issue came to light in 2006 over whether Santorum was still claiming a homestead exemption on the Stephens Lane property that provided him with a county property tax discount through a reduction of assessed property values for primary residences. County officials determined Santorum didn’t occupy the house enough days during the year to qualify.

While Santorum claimed to live in the Stephens Lane house and listed it as his address for voting purposes, two relatives of his wife were also registered voters at the same address between 2000 and 2004, raising more questions about whether the Santorums actually lived there.

Cyber charter school residency issues

Santorum is running an ad in Iowa with a pop-up that says his children were homeschooled.

“They didn’t homeschool their kids,” Vecchio said. “They were cyberschooled. There’s a difference.”

Vecchio should know. The former Penn Hills School Board member was the person who brought to light that five Santorum children attended online classes through Western Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (now PA Cyber Charter School) between 2001-05 at the expense of Penn Hills taxpayers, despite the fact their main residence was in Leesburg, VA.

Virginia had no cyber schools, Vecchio said. Pennsylvania law requires local school districts to pay the tuition of charter school students who live in the district. 

In 2004, Penn Hills School District records showed local taxpayers had paid more than $100,000 for Santorum's children to attend the cyber charter school. After the controversy started, Santorum said he would pull the children from the school, but the charter school officials offered to allow Santorum to enroll the children without the tuition provided he pick up the technology costs.

The school board challenged Santorum’s residency but state hearing officer Barry Kramer, who was appointed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, ruled the district had waited too long to make the challenge. The board appealed and, in the end, the school board accepted the state Department of Education's offer of $55,000 to resolve the dispute over the cyber charter bills.

Hometown boy?

Despite living in Virginia since 1995, Santorum failed to submit the 10,000 signatures needed to qualify for the Virginia primary election on March 6, according to the Washington Post.

But what kind of support does he have in Penn Hills?

Jane Wills, Penn Hills Republican Committee chairperson, is “thrilled to death” that Santorum has his hat in the presidential ring. Many Penn Hills Republicans who worked with Santorum on his first campaign are still involved in supporting him today.

She said Santorum delves into issues; has a keen, sharp mind; and has a “wonderful” family.

“This man is definitely presidential material,” Wills said. “He is really a very exceptional person in general. The country would be blessed to have him as president.”

On the other hand, Democrat Vecchio takes Santorum to task for “judging everyone,” pointing to his inflammatory statements about gays and other issues.

“What kills me is he’s supposed to be such a righteous man, a Christian,” Vecchio said. “He’s a hypocrite.”

Wills calls all the controversy over his residency, taxes and cyber school issues “a political football.” She said Santorum has been absolved in all the issues, yet they remain in the background of his campaign.

“It was very sad to see,” Wills said. “I hope that doesn’t get held against him.”

Follow the Iowa Caucus coverage at Iowa City Patch.

trusgold December 31, 2011 at 09:41 PM
Typical Rick Santorum. I remember when he ran against Doug Walgren and used the residency issue. Rep. Walgren had been in Congress a long time and wanted his family with him, you know like Santorum did. So Walgren got BBQ'd for being a family man and Santorum uses it as a badge of honor. I find it horrible he is rising in the polls in Iowa. If he comes in third we won't be rid of him for a while. I thought once Casey beat him, we heard the last of Santorum..no such luck. He is a hater and gives Christianity a bad name.
sieben13 January 01, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Little ricky is Liar & a Fraud We don't want him representing Pennsylvania,so why the hell would we want him representing the USA.
sieben13 January 01, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Ask his neighbors if he lives there ?
Lisa Flowers January 01, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Glad you are getting this all out in the open. The jerk gives Pennsylvania a bad name.
John January 01, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Every time Santorum opens his mouth, I think "IDIOT". He just comes across as a moron. I was pleased as punch when he was thrown out of the Senate. Something about him just gives me the creeps - similar to Larry Craig. I'm sure we will be hearing about this sleaze bag in some very unflattering and illegal &/or immoral situations. Just wait, guys like him think they are invicible and become very sloppy
dave January 01, 2012 at 03:30 PM
He supports the Republicon Business Party of Crooks and Theives...he has left a mess of corruption in Pennsylvania....there Business party of Crooks and Theives are currently finding ways to rig the election....Govignore Crusty Corbutt is the result of day old Santorum!
sieben13 January 01, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Pennsylvania a Democratic state with a repuglican Governor??????? Whose fault is it ??????? "OURS" lets get off our lazy behinds and support our party
Shereese Maynard January 01, 2012 at 06:14 PM
I fail to understand why Santorum is still in the race. That being said, if he plans on going forward, why not clean up his financial house. It's obvious at this point he's never resided in the Penn Hills house. Why doesn't he resolve to be more honest from here on. He can't win the nomination; shouldn't he at least salvage his reputation?
sieben13 January 01, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Money and the prospects of making more
ED January 02, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Gee, I guess everyone isn't required to use their full name.
ED January 02, 2012 at 09:54 PM
"Something about him just gives me the creeps - similar to Larry Craig. I'm sure we will be hearing about this sleaze bag in some very unflattering and illegal &/or immoral situations."...I'm no fan of Santorum, but that is a cheap shot. He hasn't been proven to have done anything 'illegal &/or immoral" or even accused. Maybe if I knew you there would be something about you that "just gives me the creeps" and then I could conclude that you must have done something ' illegal &/or immoral" and just haven't been exposed yet.
SOGTP January 03, 2012 at 12:15 PM
If it wasn't for Little Ricky Sanitarium, we would not have had Arlen Sphincter for another six years starting in 2004. We would have had Pat Toomey. Since Arlen Sphincter was the swing vote for Obamascare, we probably would not have had Obamascare if not for Little Ricky Sanitarium endorsing the pro-choice Republicrat Arlen Sphincter.
rynaldo January 04, 2012 at 04:08 AM
well we all fall for the lies and think someone is going to turn things around, when its our responsibilty to see that these career politicians do not get elected, the constitution clearly states that they are to serve, and go home, they should not be living in the state capitals or DC, they should go home to their regular jobs, and return to there seat in the state or DC, vote and go home, think about how much money would be saved, with all the staff, and expenses of maintaining offices at home and in their offices in the stae and DC and think about how much they would have to answer to those that actually hired (elected) them. maybe if they had to face us most of them time maybe thier heads would come out from under their crowns and do their damn jobs

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