“Frank [Luntz] has been a friend of mine for more than 30 years. … I’ve rented a room from Frank for a couple of months, but don’t worry, I’m back to — going back to where I normally am, on my couch in my office. But, yes, we pay fair market rate.”
— House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), in an interview on Fox & Friends, May 4
Kevin McCarthy was criticized the other night by Tucker Carlson of Fox News Channel for renting an apartment in the District from pollster Frank Luntz, a longtime Republican pollster who also does a lot of corporate work (and has been critical of former president Donald Trump).
“Kevin McCarthy promises Republicans he shares their values,” Carlson said. “He tells them he’s on their side. He says he will fight for them against permanent Washington, the forces that would like to destroy their lives … and at the end of the day, Kevin McCarthy goes home to Frank Luntz’s apartment in Penn Quarter and laughs about it.”
In his response, McCarthy shrugged off the comment and described Luntz as a friend he first met in 1994, when he was a staff member for then-Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.). “Frank’s not a lobbyist. Frank’s a friend I knew for 15 years before I ever got in,” McCarthy said, apparently referring roughly to when he became a member of Congress in 2007.
Actually, that friendship had already included some business. Luntz conducted a poll in 2000 for yrock.com, which McCarthy started when he was national chairman of the Young Republicans. Yrock was an abbreviation for Young Republican Online Community Network.
So what kind of apartment is this?
It’s a 7,000-square-foot space — a combination of four penthouse apartments — with what appear to be homeowner’s association (HOA) fees of nearly $5,000 per month.
In August and September of 2018, Luntz purchased four adjoining penthouse units in the Clara Barton building in Penn Quarter for a total of almost $4.3 million. Combined, the units totaled 6,960 square feet and had 12 bedrooms, 12 full bathrooms and four half-baths. The HOA fees alone on the units are $4,976 per month, according to Redfin.com.
The three-level units, each 1,740 square feet, are:
- 1146 — $1,050,000 purchase price, three bedrooms, 3½ bathrooms, HOA dues $1,244 a month
- 1147 — $1,080,000, three bedrooms, 3½ bathrooms, HOA dues $1,244 a month
- 1148 — $1,080,000 three bedrooms, 3½ bathrooms, HOA dues $1,244 a month
- 1149 — $1,080,000, three bedrooms, 3½ bathrooms, HOA dues $1,244 a month
(The link to 1148 has good photos of the property.)
Luntz set about merging the units in November 2019. Neighbors complained about the vibrations caused by the removal of three sets of stairs. “Recent jackhammering to remove stairs from the units generated a heightened level of concern about both noise and vibration,” said a notice from the Clara Barton board in 2019. “Residents expressed concern about impacts to their day-to-day activities, their units, and the building as a whole.”
Besides the “room” he rented, McCarthy would have had access to a 24/7 concierge, a rooftop pool, a fitness center, a media room, a business center, and a party room with a bar and pool table.
McCarthy’s latest financial disclosure, covering 2019, shows assets of between 265,000 and $600,000 (generating income of between $17,505 and $50,200) with liabilities between $100,002 and $200,000. (Correction: an earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the year for the disclosure and McCarthy’s reported assets.)
McCarthy’s spokesman did not respond to requests for comment, including a request for the “fair market rate” paid by McCarthy. Luntz also did not respond to a request for comment. An unnamed McCarthy spokesman told the Daily Wire: "McCarthy rented a room of approximately 400 square feet, and under House Ethics guidelines, calculated the fair market amount at $1,500/month by comparing what other members of Congress were also paying to live in the building and additional comparables for the space in the building and neighborhood.”
According to Apartments.com, a studio or one-bedroom apartment in a nearby premium building could run as much as $5,000 per month. A Post colleague reports she paid $2,350 (not including utilities) for a one-bedroom in the Clara Barton building up until February. Zillow currently lists studios and one-bedrooms in Clara Barton as between $1,675 and $2,300 a month. Another Clara Barton resident reported that is the going rate in the neighborhood of apartments of that size.
“Tangible gifts are generally valued at the item’s fair market value, even if the item is not typically for sale,” House ethics rules say. “Fair market value is the item’s retail price, not the wholesale price, or the reasonable estimate of an item’s cost if it were available for sale. You may use the lowest price available to the general public to value a gift.”
Gifts based on personal friendship are allowed, but “if the gift’s fair market value exceeds $250, you must seek formal Committee approval to accept a gift offered because of personal friendship,” the rules add.
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