It's worth stressing upfront: I have no grounds to believe there's anything improper or untoward about Sen. Collins' recent Washington house purchase.
That said, none of the public discussion so far has addressed--let alone answered--the very salient, public interest-minded questions that the purchase raises.
Since no one seems particularly inclined to put these questions to the junior senator, what follows is an attempt to get a handful of relevant facts on the table and draw attention to some of those outstanding questions:
--Collins and Thomas Daffron, with whom she bought the $705,000 house, have a professional relationship going back to the 1970s. He has worked on at least one of her political campaigns and donated at least $6350 to Collins over the course of several election cycles.
--Daffron is currently the Chief Operating Officer at Jefferson Consulting Group, a lobbying shop that helps clients "win access to the government contracting market." The firm also does consulting for government agencies.
--Whether Jefferson Consulting Group employees have lobbied Collins on behalf of these and other clients isn't clear. What kind of professional access Daffron has had to Collins (who is ranking member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which is charged with oversight of "the management, efficiency, effectiveness and economy of all agencies and departments of the Federal government") is not clear.
--During the early 2000s, Daffron was a lobbyist with Chesapeake Enterprises at a time when one of its largest clients was the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. Prior to that, he worked in the same capacity at American Defense International.
--Whether Daffron lobbied Collins on behalf of his clients during this period--or informally on behalf of his firm's other clients--is not clear. Whether other lobbyists at Chesapeake Enterprises and American Defense International lobbied Collins during this period is not clear.
--According to a financial disclosure form made public in June, Sen. Collins recently had assets of between $110,000 and $300,000.
--How the $705,000 home was paid for and/or financed is not clear.
--The structure of the financial agreement between Collins and Daffron is not clear.
--Collins' aim in purchasing the house remains unclear. (A Collins spokesman told the AP that Collins will be using the home as a secondary residence. In the same article, however, the house was described as an "investment property.")
--During her 1994 campaign for Senate, Sen. Collins promised voters she would serve two terms and then "come home" to Maine.