Pruitt’s Capitol Hill Condo Fallout Hits a Republican SenatorBy
The Capitol Hill condo that landed EPA administrator Scott Pruitt into a whirlwind of controversy may ensnare another Washington power broker.
Committees for Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo hosted a series of campaign fundraisers at the crashpad used by Pruitt. But the committees didn’t report making any payments to the owner of the condo, according to the Campaign for Accountability, a watchdog group that has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.
Federal Election Campaign Act and FEC regulations require all political committees to disclose any contributions or expenditures that exceed $200, the Washington-based group said. If the condo was provided for free it could constitute a "in-kind contribution" that should be reported.
The watchdog group has also filed a complaint about lobbyist Vicki Hart, a co-owner of the condominium at 223 C Street Northeast, who is married to J. Steven Hart, a lobbyist and chairman of Williams & Jensen.
"It’s not that complicated: lobbyists can’t let senators host fundraisers at their businesses for free," said Daniel E. Stevens, the Campaign for Accountability’s executive director. "If Senator Crapo or the lobbying power couple of Vicki and J. Steven Hart violated federal law, they should be held accountable.”
Legislation introduced by Crapo in 2017 would roll back provisions in banking law, including provisions that would have been beneficial for banks such as HSBC North America Holdings Inc., which Steven Hart is registered to lobby for, the Campaign for Accountability said.
Robert Sumner, a Crapo spokesman, said the campaign began last month an internal review and then engaged outside counsel to examine the campaign’s use of the townhouse and any resulting FEC reporting requirements.
“Senator Crapo, like other members of Congress, has used the townhouse for campaign-related events, but not for the Senator’s personal use or for any overnight stays," Sumner said Thursday in an email. "If necessary, the Campaign will file amended reports with the FEC to ensure compliance with campaign finance laws.”
Other lawmakers appear to have hosted fundraisers at the condo.
Michigan Republican Representative Bill Huizenga hosted a $500-per-person breakfast at the townhouse in March 2017, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And the Daily Beast, citing a source familiar with the event, reported that Senator Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican, also held an event there.
Huizenga and Risch didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
FEC guidance says that individuals who host fundraisers in their homes are volunteers, and aren’t making an in-kind contribution to a campaign.
The condo, just blocks away from the Capitol building, was thrust into the limelight after it was revealed that Pruitt stayed there under a favorable, $50-a-night lease.
The District of Columbia has cited Vicki Hart for operating a rental without the proper license, an infraction carrying a potential $2,034 fine.
— With assistance by Bill Allison