Dick Morris and Eileen McGann have raised some serious questions in their column “Rahm’s ‘Rent’ Is Just The Tip Of Ethics Iceberg.”
News broke last week that Rahm Emanuel, now White House chief of staff, lived rent- free for years in the home of Rep. Rosa De Lauro (D-Conn.) – and failed to disclose the gift, as congressional ethics rules mandate. But this is only the tip of Emanuel’s previously undislosed ethics problems.
One issue is the work Emanuel tossed the way of De Lauro’s husband. But the bigger one goes back to Emanuel’s days on the board of now-bankrupt mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
Emanuel is a multimillionaire, but lived for the last five years for free in the tony Capitol Hill townhouse owned by De Lauro and her husband, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg.
During that time, he also served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – which gave Greenberg huge polling contracts. It paid Greenberg’s firm $239,996 in 2006 and $317,775 in 2008. (Emanuel’s own campaign committee has also paid Greenberg more than $50,000 since 2004.)
To be fair, Greenberg had polling contracts with the DCCC before – but each new election cycle brings its own set of consultants. And Emanuel was certainly generous with his roommate.
Emanuel never declared the substantial gift of free rent on any of his financial-disclosure forms. He and De Lauro claim that it was just allowable “hospitality” between colleagues. Hospitality – for five years?
So far the press and the watchdogs are pussyfooting around the powerful (and notoriously vindictive) new White House Chief of Staff, and it remains to be seen how far the questions raised by “Rahm’s Rent” will be pursued.
But consider what happened last summer, when a Republican Senator was implicated in an ostensibly similar arrangement (although he at least paid rent).
The National Journal revealed that Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman was “only” paying $600 a month rent for a basement apartment in the house of a Republican political consultant.
Senator Coleman pointed out that his Democratic colleagues Chuck Schumer of New York and Dick Durbin of Illinois (and Massachusetts congressman Bill Delahunt) had a not dissimilar arrangement with their landlord, California congressman George Miller, to whom each of them paid $750 monthly.
Senator Shumer went on the defensive: “Listen, I share a house with four other people. I share a room with a person. Ask Norm if he does that.”
And Senator Durbin joked about it and poormouthed the digs: ”I live with Schumer — that’s an added burden. And you know, the place is not — I don’t know what Norm Coleman’s place looks like. Ours looks like a goodwill store on drugs.”
And Melanie Klein’s watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed an ethics suit against Norm Coleman.
So far the CREW website is silent about the Rent Redrum with which Mr. Emanuel appears to be getting away.
An interesting historical footnote that doesn’t appear to have been mentioned elsewhere: One of Congressman Miller’s earlier renters was then-congressman now-CIA-nominee Leon Panetta. Mr. Panetta moved out when President Clinton named him to head OMB, because ethics laws prohibited a member of the White House staff from paying rent to a member of Congress.
(Above: A Goodwill Store on Drugs: Senator Charles Schumer’s unmade sofabed in Congressman George Miller’s Capital Hill townhouse. Back in July 2007, The New York Times, instead of questioning the ethics of the arrangement, ran a chatty story about the odd couple existence experienced/endured by Mr. Miller (D-CA) and his tenants Senators Schumer (D-NY) and Durbin (D-IL) and Congressman Bill Delahunt (D-MA). The Times‘ indulgently amused take on the story: “Think MTV’s ‘Real World’ with a slovenly cast of Democratic power brokers.” But who says slovens can’t get sweetheart deals?)