Democrat Katie McGinty opened a new front in her Senate campaign against incumbent Republican Pat Toomey on Friday, attempting to tie the senator to aggressive foreclosure practices and signaling an attack line for the race's final weeks.
As Toomey got a boost from a Philadelphia visit by former President George W. Bush, McGinty seized on a Politico report that a bank Toomey cofounded in 2005 pursued foreclosures using a practice known as a "confession of judgment" - legal in Pennsylvania but barred in many states.
The practice, which by law must appear in extra-large type in contracts that allow it, gives an advantage to lenders. Team Capital, the bank Toomey helped start, used it in at least 20 cases over four years to try to seize the homes of clients who had put up their homes as collateral for business loans.
McGinty also accused Toomey of a conflict of interest because he owns bank stock while serving on the Senate banking committee and being critical of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), created to shield consumers from abusive banking practices.
"He opposed consumer protections to prevent predatory practices," McGinty said in a call with reporters. "Now we know why."
Toomey's camp quickly dismissed the claim as "phony charges," and the latest in a line of attacks it said "are getting more and more desperate as her campaign sinks."
The senator has long reported his interest in the bank in his Senate financial disclosure forms. Spokesman Ted Kwong said Toomey "followed every rule" in banking and in office.
During the call with reporters, McGinty could not point to evidence of Toomey's direct involvement with the foreclosure practices or explain how the CFPB might have impacted these loans.
Because the cases in question involve business loans, not ordinary consumer deals, they would not have been regulated by the bureau, Toomey aides said. Public documents show that most of the cases began after Toomey left the board of Team Capital - though they did occur while he owned bank stock worth between $500,001 and $1 million.
The back and forth came as the candidates begin the final month in one of the nation's most watched Senate races, one that polls can't seem to agree on.
The senator, meanwhile, got fund-raising help Friday from Bush, who has traveled the country to aid vulnerable GOP senators and members of Congress while refusing to endorse presidential nominee Donald Trump. At a Union League lunch, Bush spoke to about 200 attendees.
"I wish I could vote for a man or woman ... with the character of the speaker we just heard," said one, Michael Ryan, a retired cardiologist from Devon.