By Shannon McCaffrey
The Associated Press
ATLANTA —; A family trust fund helped Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor secure a $1 million loan for his gubernatorial bid, his campaign revealed last week.
The December 2005 loan from Albany Bank and Trust has come under scrutiny from Taylor’s Democratic rival, Secretary of State Cathy Cox, who has questioned whether he got a sweetheart deal from his hometown bank. At least two executives of the bank’s holding company are Taylor campaign contributors.
The Taylor camp defended the loan, throwing open the books on documents they said showed that Taylor had received no special treatment. He is paying a 7.25 percent interest rate, slightly above market rate at the time of the loan, the campaign’s lawyer, Lee Parks, said.
Parks said the one-year loan was “by the book.” He said the bank made the loan because of Taylor’s creditworthiness, income and “the bank’s confidence that he will receive an inheritance.”
But the Cox camp said the revelation that a family trust helped the lieutenant governor get the loan raised additional questions.
“This is a highly unusual loan,” Cox spokesman Peter Jackson said.
Jackson noted the Taylor camp did not mention the family trust when they first faced questions about the loan in a news report. His financial disclosure also makes no mention of the trust. It lists only a $1.25 million life insurance policy as security for the loan. That policy has no value unless Taylor dies.
“The story seems to be changing on a daily basis,” Jackson said. “Is this Mark Taylor’s final answer?”
But Parks said the trust fund did not appear on the financial disclosure form because Taylor is not set to inherit it for seven years. Taylor’s father, Fred, made his fortune in the trucking business and has set up trust funds for all three of his children.
The Taylor camp said the exact value of the candidate’s trust, which is composed of property, is unknown. But Taylor spokesman Rick Dent said it would more than cover the $1 million loan.
Taylor has earned an average of $468,000 over the last four years through a combination of capital gains, business interests, his state salary and his salary as an executive in his father’s trucking business. He listed his net worth at just under $1 million.
It is widely expected that Taylor will use campaign contributions to repay the loan, which comes due this December.
Taylor took out the loan in the waning days of 2005 in advance of a new ethics law that caps at $250,000 the amount of campaign contributions which may be used to repay campaign loans.
Jackson, the Cox spokesman, said on Thursday that the state Ethics Commission should investigate whether Taylor’s use of the trust fund to help secure the loan is legitimate.
State Ethics Commission interim executive director Rick Thompson said that appeared to fall outside of the commission’s jurisdiction because it was a personal loan.
The Taylor camp took strong exception to Cox’s continuing criticism.
“If Cathy Cox wants to continue to lie and say Mark Taylor did something wrong, then she should have the guts to say it herself,” Dent said.