GOP gubernatorial hopeful Zach Wamp is one of four members of the U.S. House of Representatives named in an ethics complaint filed today with the Office of Congressional Ethics by a Washington watchdog group. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) charges that the four, as well as four senators, paid below-market rent when they resided at the now-infamous "C Street House," a fancy townhouse affiliated with a shadowy religious group called the Fellowship.
CREW alleges that the $950 per month members paid for lodging and housekeeping services falls well short of prevailing market rates, which could amount to violations of congressional gift rules. CREW's Melanie Sloan sums up the allegation:
"At a time when so many Americans are losing their housing it is surprising to discover that some members of Congress are lucky enough to have a landlord that charges below market rent for fairly luxurious accommodations--and offers housekeeping and meal service to boot. Rarely does someone--particularly a member of Congress--receive something for nothing, so you can't help but wonder exactly what these members may be doing in return for all of this largess. Of course, this is the reason the gift ban was enacted in the first place. This situation cries out for an immediate ethics inquiry."
According to a New York Times report, questions are also being raised about tax matters associated with the C Street house. Specifically, a failure by lawmakers to pay fair-market rent could raise the possibility that they are liable for unpaid income taxes.