Mfume explains his 12 bad checks Overdrafts "no effort to beat" system, he says.

March 31, 1992|By Carol Emert | Carol Emert,States News Service Joe Nawrozki contributed to this story.

WASHINGTON -- Maryland Rep. Kweisi Mfume wrote 12 overdrafts on his account at the trouble-plagued House Bank.

But he didn't write them to help lead the glamorous lifestyle often associated with some of Washington's more free-spending political figures, according to a news release issued by his office.

Mr. Mfume, a 7th-District Democrat and member of the House Ethics Committee, found himself with egg on his face this month when he was informed by his own committee that he had made the 12 overdrafts during the 39 months under review.

Mr. Mfume was appointed to the committee to help with the House Bank probe based on information that he never had made an overdraft; the congressman replaced a panel member who had made a habit of writing bad checks.

Mr. Mfume and the Democratic leadership had been incorrectly informed in a letter from the House sergeant-at-arms that the congressman never made an overdraft at the bank.

Mr. Mfume's bad checks, according to the press release, were:

* A $500 donation to Baltimore Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

* $414 to Baltimore Orioles, Inc. for partial payment on his season tickets.

* $350 to Accent on Decorating for draperies.

* $100 offering to Brown's Memorial Church.

* $51.80 to Dee Crowe for delivery of The Baltimore Sun.

* $94.83 to Hechinger Co. for lawn and garden supplies.

* $600 to CHOICE for credit card charges.

* $53.50 to Prodigy Services for membership in an on-line computer service.

* $65 to C&P Telephone Co.

* $90 to C&P Telephone Co.

* $22.30 to the Baltimore Director of Finance for a water bill.

* $200 (payee unknown; this check has not been located).

The checks never actually bounced; House Bank policy mandated that they would be covered by existing funds.

So Hechinger, the Orioles, Brown's Memorial Church and the rest of the payees actually received money from other House members' accounts.

Mr. Mfume said in an interview that he doesn't expect the nature of the checks to sway many angry taxpayers in his favor.

"There is such a feeding frenzy out there in the land," he said.

"People don't care if its a few or a few hundred [checks]. They see it as a special privilege."

But at least the list of checks "clearly says that there was no effort at all on my part to commit any kind of fraud or get interest-free loans or beat the system. They were just regular monthly checks that anyone could pay out of their checking account."

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