New Jersey Senate nominee Steve Lonegan (R), who recently stepped down after several years as State Director for New Jersey at the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, has long made his opposition to government debt a key part of his platform. But a ThinkProgress review of his personal financial disclosure reveals that Lonegan holds more than $1.5 million in mortgage debt on apartments he owns.
Despite his own debt, he has repeatedly made the national debt an issue in this campaign. In July, Lonegan used a primary debate to talk of his opposition to federal debt and his “comprehensive plan for tackling our debt crisis.” And on his campaign website, he calls for a freeze on federal spending and new debt and attacks his Democratic opponent, Newark Mayor Corey Booker, for being willing to raise the debt ceiling without accompanying spending cuts — even though the debt limit merely allows the government to pay for what has already been appropriated.
Americans for Prosperity is a tax-exempt political group, created and funded by conservative oil billionaires Charles and David Koch. It works to fight “unnecessary barriers to entrepreneurship.” Lonegan worked for the group from 2007 to 2013. Over that time, the New Jersey chapter of the group campaigned heavily for a federal balanced budget amendment, endorsing the House Republicans’ “Cut, Cap, and Balance” plan. The national organization argued that ordinary citizens must balance their own budgets, so the federal government should do the same.
But while balanced budget amendment advocates, like Lonegan’s Americans for Prosperity, frequently make that misleading argument, individuals often borrow in the short term to make investments for the long term — mortgages, lines of credits, and other sorts of loans are facts of life for millions of Americans. Few people can afford to buy their first home outright or pay for their kids to go to college out of pocket. Even with a $228,936.16 reported annual salary from the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Lonegan reported holding two mortgages: one for between $500,001 and $1 million, the other for somewhere between $1,000,001 and $5 million. All totaled, his debt is somewhere between $1.5 and $6 million.