U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, has admitted to federal election officials that he used a lobbyist-owned Washington, D.C., townhouse 81 times over a four-year period at no cost, including as recently as February.
The new details from Crapo's re-election and leadership committees came in a response to a Federal Election Commission inquiry.
The committees conducted an internal review of use of the townhouse and "fully disclosed to the FEC the date and purpose of each use of the space – not just those named in the FEC complaint filed last month – as well as the corresponding reimbursements," said Sam Neel, counsel for the committees.
"Senator Crapo strives to adhere to all FEC laws and regulations and has worked quickly to correct the oversight that occurred regarding the use of the townhouse,” Neel said, in a statement provided on behalf of Crapo.
The campaign used the townhouse for 78 “kitchen cabinet” meetings, fundraising events and other campaign-related meetings. The campaign did pay for catering, cleaning, telephone calls and staff expenses associated with each use of the townhouse.
“However, the committee did not pay for or report the costs of each use of the townhouse rental space, which the committee understood to be in-kind contributions from Ms. Vicki Hart,” states the April 26 letter from Crapo’s campaign treasurer, Paul Kilgore, to the FEC.
In addition, Crapo's leadership PAC, Freedom Fund, admitted to the FEC that it, too, failed to disclose similar contributions. it had used the same townhouse three times since 2014 for fundraising events, but it did not pay for or report the rental space costs.
“The Crapo campaign and Freedom Fund are committed to ensuring compliance with all FEC reporting requirements," Neel said.
The townhouse is the same one that drew attention earlier this year, after Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt rented it from Hart and her husband, J. Steven Hart, for well below market rates.
Vicki Hart is a health care lobbyist. J. Steven Hart is chairman of a large lobbying firm and a lobbyist for HSBC, a British bank.
Crapo's committee reported a $1,000 in-kind contribution from Hart in 2015, but none since.
"In March, the committees initiated an internal review of their use of the townhouse space at 223 C Street and found that the campaign used the space for 45 meetings and calls related to the campaign, as well as 33 fundraisers," said Neel. "Freedom Fund used the space for three fundraisers. Most of the calls and meetings regarding the campaign occurred during the senator's re-election campaign and related to updates from his campaign team in Idaho.
"The campaign used the townhouse for those campaign activities because campaign business cannot be conducted on federal property. No one from the campaign or Freedom Fund ever used the townhouse for an overnight stay."
The townhouse is owned by an LLC governed by Hart, rather than by Hart individually. Corporations cannot make in-kind contributions, so the committees had to pay the LLC for each use of the townhouse.
“Hart recently informed the committee that the cost of the event space is $100 per use,” states the letter.
On April 20, the campaign reimbursed Hart $6,700 for 67 campaign-related events held in the space during the 2016 election cycle and $1,100 for the 11 campaign-related events held in the current election cycle. The same day, the Freedom Fund reimbursed Hart $300 for the three fundraising events it held in the space.
That step came after a watchdog group, Campaign for Accountability, filed a complaint with the FEC against Crapo and Vicki Hart.
The group says it plans to file an amended complaint with the FEC Monday.
“Given how extensively Crapo's campaign used the condo, there are a lot of questions about whether his campaign broke any laws,” said Daniel Stevens, Campaign for Accountability executive director.