Richard Burr sold townhome to lobbyist for $900,000


And said lobbyist had business before Burr's Committee:

Burr sold the small townhouse, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, for what, by some estimates, was an above market price — $900,000 — to a team led by lobbyist John Green. That is tens of thousands of dollars above some estimates of the property’s value by tax assessors, a real estate website and a local real estate agent. The sale was done off-market, without the home being listed for sale publicly.

Green is a longtime donor to Burr’s political campaigns and has co-hosted at least one fundraiser for him. In 2017, the year of the sale, Green lobbied on behalf of a stream of clients with business before Burr’s committees.

If there was ever a poster-child for term limits, Burr is it. He's been in Washington for a quarter of a century. Went from a former lawn-mower salesman to a multi-millionaire, all while supposedly being a public servant. How does one do that, you might ask? By doing favors for lobbyists:

Ethics experts are generally troubled when politicians enter into business transactions with donors or lobbyists with matters before them. The legality of this sale hinges on whether the home was purchased for fair market value. If it was purchased for more than that, it would be considered a gift. Gifts of significant value from lobbyists are generally banned by Senate ethics rules, and those that aren’t are typically required to be publicly disclosed. Neither Burr nor Green disclosed any such gifts. Gifts that are intended to influence official actions are illegal.

“This appears to be extremely problematic,” said Kedric Payne, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center and former deputy chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Other ethics experts agreed. “This has every appearance of being a violation of the gift ban,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the watchdog group Public Citizen. “The gift ban is one of the most basic legal frameworks for preventing corruption. Lobbyist gifts to lawmakers is akin to a bribe.”

Holman, however, said proving such transactions went for above market value is difficult. He compared the scenario to former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt renting a Capitol Hill condo for a discounted rate from the wife of a lobbyist who sought to influence the agency’s decisions. EPA officials initially defended the rent as market rate, and the case did not result in any sanction or prosecution against Pruitt.

FWIW, it's hard to defend Burr's "market value" of that townhome since he didn't put it on the fricking market at all. Was not listed for sale, and no other bids came in. See, that second part is important, because in a genuine market transaction, a bidding war is about the only thing that would net such a profit for a property owner.

Like Burr's insider trading of stocks, this stinks to high heaven.



It also shows...

how inadequate our anti-corruption laws are. We need a much stronger set of laws to govern the behavior of elected officials like Burr (both state and federal) to cut off this kind of behavior and an independent ethics oversight mechanism to enforce them. We've seen it far too much from elected officials here in NC. It's past time that they were reminded that their duty is to serve the public, not their donors, lobbyists, or their own bottom line.