State Politics

Complaint claims Idaho senator didn’t report donated time at DC condo

The Capitol Hill condo where Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has stayed in Washington, D.C.
The Capitol Hill condo where Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has stayed in Washington, D.C. AP

When news of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s sweetheart condo deal broke, reporters began looking into who else had used the building on Capitol Hill.

That’s when Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo’s name surfaced.

From May through November 2017, Crapo’s campaign committee, Mike Crapo for U.S. Senate, and his leadership PACs, the Freedom Fund and the Idaho Conservative Growth Fund, held a series of monthly fundraising events at 223 C Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. That is the same address where Pruitt lived for several months in 2017, reportedly paying a well-below-market rate of $50 per night.

On Thursday, Campaign for Accountability, a nonpartisan, nonprofit public accountability watchdog group, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Crapo and Vicki Hart, the lobbyist owner of the condominium.

The complaint alleges Crapo, a Republican, did not have to pay to host events at Hart’s townhouse. Neither Crapo, Hart, nor any of Crapo’s fundraising committees disclosed this as an in-kind campaign contribution, in apparent violation of the federal campaign finance rules, it claims.

Crapo’s office said it is already looking into the issue.

“Last month, the campaign initiated an internal review and then engaged outside counsel to examine the campaign’s use of the townhouse and any resulting FEC reporting requirements,” spokesman Robert Sumner said. “If necessary, the campaign will file amended reports with the FEC to ensure compliance with campaign finance laws.”

Sumner also noted that 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.”

Federal regulations require all political committees to disclose any contributions or expenditures that exceed $200.

Campaign for Accountability also drew a connection between the condo access and a recently-passed bill Crapo introduced in November to roll back some provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank banking law. Hart’s husband, J. Steven Hart, is chairman of a large lobbying firm and a lobbyist for HSBC, a British bank.

“The lobbyist owners of Scott Pruitt’s crash pad allowed Sen. Mike Crapo to host fundraisers at their Capitol Hill condo, seemingly at no cost. Is it just a coincidence that the senator also introduced legislation that benefits the clients of the townhouse’s owners?” Daniel E. Stevens, Campaign for Accountability’s executive director, said in a news release. “It’s not that complicated: lobbyists can’t let senators host fundraisers at their businesses for free. If Sen. Crapo or the lobbying power couple of Vicki and J. Steven Hart violated federal law, they should be held accountable.”

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell