For Immediate Release
Matt Jacob 202.408.5565
CREW Files Ethics Complaints Against C Street House Residents
WASHINGTON - Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
filed complaints with the Senate Ethics Committee and the House Office
of Congressional Ethics against members of Congress who reside or have
resided at the C Street House, alleging they paid below market rent in
violation of congressional gift rules.
CREW's complaints name Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Tom
Coburn (R-OK), Jim DeMint (R-SC), and John Ensign (R-NV), as well as
Representatives Mike Doyle (D-PA), Heath Shuler (D-NC), Bart Stupak
(D-MI) and Zach Wamp (R-TN) as members of Congress who received improper
gifts from C Street Center, Inc., the entity that runs the house and is
affiliated with the Fellowship, a shadowy religious organization.
press accounts indicate that members of Congress who live in
the house pay $950 per month in return for lodging and housekeeping
services. Meals may also be available at an unknown extra cost.
Earlier in the week, Clergy VOICE, a group of clergy from various
religious traditions, filed a complaint with the IRS asking for an
investigation into the tax implications of accepting lodging at the C
Street House. The group surveyed the Capitol Hill rental market and
discovered that nearby hotels charge a minimum of $2,400 per month,
corporate housing costs a minimum of $4,000 per month and efficiency or
one bedroom apartments typically go for at least $1,700 per month. None
of these rates include any meals.
The House and Senate gift rules specifically include "lodging" as a
prohibited gift. There are only two exceptions to the ban on accepting
lodging: if it is provided by an individual based on personal
friendship, or if it is hospitality in a personal residence owned by an
individual. Here, because a corporate entity - C Street Center, Inc. -
owns the property, neither exception applies. In addition, members may
not accept gifts offered to members of Congress because of their
official positions. As only members of Congress appear to live in the C
Street House, it seems likely that it is because of their positions
that they are permitted to live there and are offered below market rent.
CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, "At a time when so many
Americans are losing their housing it is surprising to discover that
some members of Congress are lucky enough to have a landlord that
charges below market rent for fairly luxurious accommodations - and
offers housekeeping and meal service to boot." Sloan continued, "Rarely
does someone - particularly a member of Congress - receive something
for nothing, so you can't help but wonder exactly what these members may
be doing in return for all of this largess. Of course, this is the
reason the gift ban was enacted in the first place. This situation
cries out for an immediate ethics inquiry."
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials -- regardless of party affiliation -- who sacrifice the common good to special interests. CREW advances its mission using a combination of research, litigation and media outreach.