Bob Brady’s $1 Million Mistake

Just how much is the party chairman worth?

2009 was a tough year financially for most every family, but it was downright catastrophic for Rep. Bob Brady and wife Debra. Or at least, that’s the way it appeared on federal personal finance disclosure reports filed by the 14-year congressional veteran and boss of the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee.

In 2008, Brady disclosed personal assets totalling between $1.08 million and $2.2 million. That’s obviously a healthy nest egg (though relatively small by the gold-plated standards of the U.S. House of Representatives, where the average net worth last year was $5.93 million).

But a funny thing happened in 2009. According to the filings, the Bradys’ net worth plummeted by 76 percent, dropping down to a range of $231,000-$553,000. Then, in 2010, the family’s assets inexplicably shot back up to their pre-2009 highs, according to the federal filings.

What could have caused such wild swings in Brady’s net worth?

Apparently it was an epic accounting oversight. Whoever prepared Brady’s filings in 2009 omitted two huge deposits with the Philadelphia Federal Credit Union, one in Brady’s name, and one in his wife’s, which together totalled between $750,000 and $1.5 million (the reports ask filers to check a range of values in each account, not specify exact amounts).

Those deposits were listed in 2008, and they were listed again in the 2010 filing. But in 2009, “we just missed it,” said Brady Chief of Staff Stanley White.

Hours after I asked White about the 2009 filing, Brady’s office filed an amended financial disclosure report.

“We contacted the ethics committee and notified them of the omission, and we have filed an amendment to the disclosure form for 2009,” White said.

The official instructions accompanying the federal financial disclosure reports say that “each individual is responsible for the completeness and accuracy of the information contained in the individual’s Financial Disclosure Statement, even if someone else prepared, or assisted in preparing, all or part of it.”

What’s more, federal law gives the attorney general the opportunity to push for real penalties against those who make bogus filings, including a $50,000 fine and/or imprisonment for up to five years for “knowingly and willfully making any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement.”

As a practical matter, however, such prosecutions are vanishingly rare. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney omitted at least 23 assets from his federal filing, and nobody is suggesting prosecuting him. Neither was a case made against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who failed to report more than $685,000 his wife earned between 2003-2007.

In Brady’s case, the fact that he reported the asset in 2008, omitted it in 2009, and then resumed reporting it in both 2010 and 2011, suggests that is exceedingly unlikely he will be sanctioned in any way for the inaccurate report.

Here’s a question, though. Why on earth are Brady and his wife stashing between $750,000 and $1.5 million in a low-interest Philadelphia Credit Union account? Somebody get that man a financial advisor.