— House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), in an interview on “Fox & Friends,” May 4
When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was first asked about living in a luxury apartment owned by pollster Frank Luntz — after being criticized for it by Fox News host Tucker Carlson — he emphasized that the two men have a long-term friendship.
McCarthy 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 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.
At the time of his remarks earlier this month, McCarthy’s emphasis on a friendship seemed logical. There appeared to be no business relationship between the two men, except for a poll conducted by Luntz in 2000 for yrock.com, which McCarthy started when he was national chairman of the Young Republicans.
But Federal Election Commission filings show that the leadership PAC controlled by McCarthy — Majority Committee PAC, or McPAC — paid one of Luntz’s companies, FIL Inc., nearly $40,000 in late 2020, just before McCarthy began renting what he described as a “room” in the recently renovated apartment.
Matt Sparks, McCarthy’s spokesman, said the payments were for surveys, one done in early September and another in early December. “One was done on pre-election messaging, which was the first election when McCarthy was the top House Republican, and the second was for a post-election survey after Republicans defied expectations,” he said. He said there was no connection between the campaign work and McCarthy’s rental of Luntz’s apartment.
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. Luntz began merging the units in November 2019, and the renovation received a final building inspection on Oct. 20.
Luntz appears to have taken possession of his renovated condo as early as Sept. 21, when a resident posted in a Facebook group: “I ran into our new neighbor today. And shortly after, he posted the following screenshot, to his Twitter account, from the CB [Clara Barton] conference room, where he was interviewing Bob Woodward!!!”
Four days later, FIL Inc. received its first payment from McPAC. It appears to be the only federal committee to pay one of Luntz’s companies in the 2020 cycle. (Luntz also received a $1,400 travel reimbursement from the Congressional Black Caucus.)
In April 2020, FIL Inc. received a $77,900 loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, enacted by the Small Business Administration after the coronavirus pandemic struck. Under the PPP formula, the loan was expected to save five jobs with an estimated average yearly compensation of $74,784 per employee.
Luntz has been a vocal critic of former president Donald Trump, which appears to have reduced his federal campaign work. His only other significant client after Trump was elected was Ted Cruz for Senate in 2018.
Sparks said McCarthy began staying in the Luntz apartment starting in January but would not say how long he stayed. In a November 2020 interview, Luntz noted that he happened to be in Washington at the time but that he lived in Los Angeles.
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.”
Zillow currently lists studios and one-bedrooms in the Clara Barton building as between $1,675 and $2,300 a month. The bylaws of the building specifically prohibit condo owners from renting anything less than the entire space — and for not less than six months. So the cost of renting Luntz’s entire space would be significantly higher. The homeownership association fees alone on the units are $4,976 per month, according to Redfin.com.
Luntz did not respond to a request for comment.
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