The Mike Crapo who went to Washington, D.C., 25 years ago would wince at the headlines that appeared in Idaho newspapers last week.
It turns out the three-term congressman and senator now serving his fourth term had a sweetheart deal at the same condo and with the same landlord as scandal-plagued Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Pruitt’s in hot water because he paid his landlord, health care lobbyist Vicki Hart and husband, lobbyist J. Steven Hart, $50 a night — when he was in Washington, D.C., — to stay at her townhouse.
Try finding an apartment at those prices.
In the midst of reporting about the Pruitt story, the Daily Beast unearthed a reference to Crapo using the Hart condo. When a watchdog group, the Campaign for Accountability, pored over Crapo’s campaign finance reports, it could find no record of the senator reimbursing Hart for the use of her pad—or Hart donating the use of her home as an in-kind contribution to the Crapo campaign.
So it filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission.
What followed was a pair of disclosures: Crapo’s campaign determined the condo was owned by a limited liability company—which, unlike an individual, can not make an in-kind contribution. So the Crapo team amended its campaign finance reports — paying the LLC $100 for each time it used the unit.
And that came to 67 events during the 2016 re-election campaign and 11 more during the cycle that runs through the 2022 campaign. Crapo’s political action committee, Freedom Fund, held three more events at the Hart property.
And at $100 a night?
The next time you get a $100 a night reservation at a Capitol Hill hotel, let us know.
Given Crapo’s good-guy image, you’re tempted to write this off as sloppy staff work. After all, what reason is there to instill discipline? As a well-funded Republican incumbent in a GOP-dominated state, he’s virtually untouchable.
Here’s the problem: No amount of sloppy staff work erases the image of the Senate Banking Committee chairman — who just undertook a relaxation of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations — relying so heavily on a pair of lobbyists.
Vicki Hart works on health care issues.
J. Steven Hart is the ex-chairman of Williams & Jensen and lobbies for HSBC, a British bank.
Even if Crapo could be assured this incident would never come to light, why would he want to be so beholden to a pair of Washington, D.C., influence peddlers?
It’s not as if Crapo needs to nickel and dime his campaign. The operation could afford to use private quarters or even GOP facilities. In his last re-election, Crapo raised and spent $5.8 million.
And it’s not the only glitch on Crapo’s record.
Five years ago, Crapo announced that a young aide involved in managing his 2010 re-election had lost $250,000 of campaign funds dabbling in Nevada real estate. The idea was to make a quick return, but Crapo’s campaign cash evaporated in the 2008 financial collapse.
Crapo was unaware of it for another two years—and then the senator’s campaign waited three more before informing the FEC about it.
Any campaign not rolling in the dough like Crapo’s would have picked up on the discrepancy much sooner.
And, of course, there was Crapo’s arrest for drunken driving on Dec. 23, 2013, in Alexandria, Va., outside Washington, D.C. Crapo pleaded guilty and apologized—and the issue barely emerged when he won his latest campaign in 2016.
Any one of those incidents could be excused as an aberration.
What’s going on here?
What happened to the Idahoan who a quarter-century ago vowed to reform Washington, D.C.?
How did he get so comfortable with the place?