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Tax man comes for C Street residence

Updated 6:06 p.m.
By Al Kamen
The famous rowhouse on C St. S.E., where disgraced South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford sought counseling after his affair -- as did Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) after his affair -- has begun paying D.C. real estate taxes, according to city officials.

At least four congressmen live there, renting upstairs rooms from a group affiliated with "the Fellowship," a secretive group that organizes the National Prayer Breakfast. Ensign, who recently moved out of the tidy brick home, lived there and Sanford, when he was a member of Congress, came by for what he called "a Christian Bible study."

The downstairs part of the house, valued $1.8 million, is used for meals and prayer meetings, while the upstairs houses residents that included over the summer three House members, as well as Ensign and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) (see our colleague Manuel Roig-Franzia's June report on the house).

It was there that Coburn, an obstetrician and gynecologist, met with Ensign's friend and former top aide, Doug Hampton, the husband of Ensign's mistress, for an emotional chat about forgiveness. Coburn reportedly advised Ensign to stop the affair but has said he would never reveal the details of those discussions, citing his religious privilege as an "ordained deacon" and his doctor's privilege.

Last summer, the tax records show, the house paid no taxes because it received an E1 or religious exemption. It was coded: "89 -Special Purpose-Misc" and it was classified for tax purposes as a commercial property.

But the property now is classified "TX - Taxable" and is listed as a residential property. The owner, according to tax records, remains "Youth With A Mission Washington DC Inc C St. Center." But that group says the property was transferred 20 years ago to C Street Center, Inc. after YWAM concluded its activities in the city.

The current property records also show that there was a tax payment of $1,714.70 on the property on Oct. 21. The records page notes that "Only payments received on or after Jan. 14, 2005 are displayed on this page."

It appears that, sometime after The Washington Post's article on the house, the city took a look at the situation. "The property in question was inspected by our office," a city official told our colleague Nikita Stewart, "and it was determined that portions are being rented to private individuals for residential purposes. As a result, the exemption was partially revoked and adjusted so that only 34 percent is now tax exempt and 66 percent has become taxable."

The property "went 66 percent taxable Aug.1," the official said, and the full taxable bill for 2010 will be $10, 234. Now, maybe if the lawmakers would stop paying rent, then the property would be fully tax-exempt. Of course, then the members would be questioned about accepting free accommodations.

By Web Politics Editor  |  November 17, 2009; 4:43 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , Washington Life  
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Comments

Pj, five of nine full paragraphs detailed the news of the revocation of the tax exemption. Four brief paragraphs gave the history of the house and placed the exemption in its proper context. Without this history and context, the significance of the revocation of the tax exemption would be meaningless.

Pj has not shown any inaccuracy at all in Kamen’s reporting. Kamen got the facts right. Pj would just like it all to be forgotten. Sorry.

The story of “Tim” Geithner was fully reported at the time. The stories of ‘Nancy,” “Harry” and “Barney” have been fully reported. (Everyone is referred to by first names). There was no breaking news about them to report. No news about them has been suppressed.

Pj is owed thanks for not objecting to the reporting of the news of the tax issue, or even that GOP rep live there. The objection boils down to the few words that refreshed the recollection of the background of the House residents.

Pj surely would have written the article differently as the reporter, but Kamen was the reporter, not pj. Pj the reporter might not even written the article at all.

Readers of the Washington Times or the Washington Examiner cannot object to any rehashing of tabloid type news, because both papers are silent on the news of the exemption. According to their search windows, neither paper has reported the news of the tax exemption or its revocation at all. Their readers are blissfully ignorant of both the tax exemption and its revocation. They have nothing to annoy them. That would be more to pj’s liking.

Pj pays his taxes, and objects to those who find ways out or around doing so. But someone, not pj, did something about it, reported it to the tax office, and notified the Post about the change in tax status. That is the important issue here. That is the news.

Finally, the family association renters run the house, which is owned by Youth with a Mission, a closely allied group. Even the family members have not raised this defense.

Posted by: vtreacy | November 21, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

To vtreacy,
I do not object to reporting the tax issue and the "C Street" reference, even that GOP reps live there.
It is the rehashing of the tabloid type news that is objectionable.
That is why I emphasized the Nancy, Harry, Barney "balance."

This was overkill of reiterating what was already done, ad nauseum, in tabloid type reports for an extended period of time.

Abusing the legal taxation obligations is absolutely a serious issue -- I think the property ownership should have been revealed -- are the actual owners the same renters? I don't know that.
I pay my taxes -- I object to those who find ways out or around doing so --including and especially the administration's Tim G., whose role now includes authority over the IRS.
Now there is a real story.

Posted by: pjcafe | November 20, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

PJ: “First, was this some have been a slow news day for Kamen to write something so trite?”

The change in tax status just came to light, so it is news, whether pj likes it or not. It it was just brought to the attention of the Post by a citizen who had noted the religious tax status last summer and had complained to the tax office. The change had just been posted on public records. Sorry that pj would like the entire matter swept under the rug.

“Second, the renters had nothing to do with paying the owner's tax status.”

Please do not ignore the obvious. The so-called “renters” are members of the family fellowship that owns the house and run the fellowship, so they know very well what their so-called landlord is doing. They get the ultimate benefit of the tax dodge.

“Renters don't receive or designate tax status on property.” It makes it much easier for the renters to get sub-market rent subsidized by the taxpayers, and as public officials they should know about it,

“Liberal jerks.” So Coburn and company should not be reported unless the article is “balanced” by every other scandal that his ever occurred in the history of Washington?

All the other stories pj mentioned angrily, "Nancy, Barney, Harry, Clinton." Were reported in full. The tax status at E St has not been reported. So pj’s points are totally irrelevant.

Pj does not want this particular news reported. The rest of us do. This is a real story that should have been reported. Pj just does not want to have unpleasant facts about these characters printed.

And it is too late now, because the news is out there for good!

These deacons are no beacons.

Posted by: vtreacy | November 18, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

vtreacy wrote:
What is pjcafe's point?
The news was that the landlord at C Street "has begun paying D.C. real estate taxes," after religious elected officials had long been living in a tax-exempt residence classified as a church. It discussed the identities and activities of those residents.

Nothing that pj listed about other politicians has anything to do with these facts.
Unless, of course, their defense is "everybody does it."
=======================================
First, was this some have been a slow news day for Kamen to write something so trite? Second, the renters had nothing to do with paying the owner's tax status. The article states that the "church" status should have changed 20 years ago. Seems like a tax records change -- should not be an attempt to entangle residents in the owner's tax issue. Renters don't receive or designate tax status on property.

My point is, why is this "event" used as an opportunity to "suggest" that the officials living there were "cheating" on the taxes. Duh. Mr. Kamen is reaching to write a nothing article in order to reiterate non-news: Coburn is a deacon in his church (is that a bad thing?) both Ensign and South Carolina guy cheated on their wives.
It's stupid --that's all. But liberal jerks like Nancy, Barney, Harry should get equal time from Kamen. He can ramble about them in any context-- doesn't have to be someone's property taxes. Diva Nancy is disgustingly making decisions for me, Barney is full of baloney and Harry is on his way out - good riddance. I'm angry and really don't care about the re-hashed details of these guys' lives -- Isn't that the pass we gave to philanderer Clinton??

Posted by: pjcafe | November 18, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

What is pjcafe's point?

The news was that the landlord at C Street "has begun paying D.C. real estate taxes," after religious elected officials had long been living in a tax-exempt residence classified as a church. It discussed the identities and activities of those residents.

Nothing that pj listed about other politicians has anything to do with these facts.

Unless, of course, their defense is "everybody does it."

Posted by: vtreacy | November 18, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I can't really glean the real theme of this article. Was it meant to get a remark in about the infidelities of "C Street" residents and associates? Was it about the owner's property tax status change?
Or, is it an expose of "the Fellowship," a secretive group that organizes the National Prayer Breakfast"?
Or, is it to reiterate that Coburn is a religious man who is also a deacon in his church?
I hope there is a follow-up article about some mundane issue (property taxes or other) that makes reference to Nancy's air force fleet, riders on "her" planes, her "reservations", her SF appearances at gatherings of "undocumented residents." Included could be a little history on Barney Frank's "companion's" indiscretion when "using" Barney's home (prostitution?) a few years ago. Maybe include some of Harry's activities too. Of course, it should be in the context of "real estate" or another similar "issue."

Posted by: pjcafe | November 18, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

The last sentence says “Now, maybe if the lawmakers would stop paying rent, then the property would be fully tax-exempt. Of course, then the members would be questioned about accepting free accommodations.”

That is a pretty lame observation. The property would NOT be tax-exempt if the residents stopped paying rent, and landlords still have to pay property taxes even if they charge no rent.

The real questions are whether the lawmakers have accepted gifts of discounted rental accommodations, and if they have noted that on their annual Financial Disclosure Statements under the Ethics in Government Act, all of which are public records of the Congress.

Posted by: vtreacy | November 18, 2009 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Vince Treacy gave us a lot of good links.
If you check out the comments following the article that broke this story on TPM, you will find a list of the Democrats who live in C Street.
In my opinion, Congress has been infiltrated from within by people who are as subversive as any foreign terrorist who is determined to undermine the character of our uniquely free country.
They are as dangerous to the peace and security of this country as Nidal Hasan.
They may deny that they intend to harm our citizens physically, but they do intend harm to the spirit of our nation.
Little by little, thanks to the excellent work of some sharp investigative reporters hot on the trail, they are being exposed for what they are.
We citizens have a hard job in front of us.
We have to clean out the nest.
They swore to uphold the Constitution, but the truth is that they had their fingers crossed because their real allegience is to a sick interpretation of their religion which they wish to impose upon the rest of us.
They are no different than the Taliban.
They're just American Taliban.
I'm a Catholic and I'm scandalized by the activities of some leaders of my church, too.
We must strongly enforce our laws which protect our principle of the separation of church and state.
Any church organizations which involve themselves in politics as a coercive influence must have their tax-exempt status revoked.
Perhaps when pocketbooks are impacted, there will be more respect for the freedoms we hold dear.
We can't leave this for others to take care of.
We are all citizens of this nation and we must all be vigilant.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | November 18, 2009 1:33 AM | Report abuse

"There is no reason that religious organizations should be tax-exempt, if anything, they should be heavily taxed and hopefully many would go into bankruptcy.
Posted by: kenk3"

Add one to the nut list. Tax exemption is necessary to prevent anti-religious bigots from shutting down individual churches. We know full well that you won't succeed in destroying religion, but it is not in the interests of justice and American principles to deny one faith over any other or none at all.

Posted by: cprferry | November 17, 2009 10:19 PM | Report abuse

"There is no reason that religious organizations should be tax-exempt, if anything, they should be heavily taxed and hopefully many would go into bankruptcy.
Posted by: kenk3"

Add one to the nut list.

Posted by: cprferry | November 17, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't the owner owe back taxes if it was renting a section of the house as a residence for quite awhile -- I would think there would be a penalty for not letting the city know there were tenants there.

Posted by: postreader118 | November 17, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse

i remember when a short time there was only 30 dollars.....and the guys were cute!

Posted by: SofaKingCool2009 | November 17, 2009 9:57 PM | Report abuse

Hey, fella. Why so concerned re paper's stumble, compared to the fact and idea of a nonprofit tax exempt status being abused? Near to home?

Posted by: axolotl | November 17, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

"It appears that, sometime after The Washington Post's article on the house, the city took a look at the situation."

The clear implication is that the Post article attracted the city's attention.

But of course, the article on the house never mentioned that it was exempt from the property tax.

So maybe it took something more than that article to make the city want to take a look at the situation.

Posted by: vtreacy | November 17, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

This article might have mentioned that Josh's Marshall's TPM site broke this story earlier today at

http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/11/c_street_house_no_longer_tax_exempt.php?ref=fpa

You know, I tried really hard to tell the Washington Post about this tax scam back in June. See the comments to the article “The Political Enclave That Dare Not Speak Its Name: No sign explains the prim and proper red brick house on C Street SE.” by Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, June 26, 2009.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/25/AR2009062504480_Comments.html

I also sent my comments directly to that reporter. One of my comments read:

“vtreacy wrote: The records are at:

https://www.taxpayerservicecenter.com/RP_Search.jsp?search_type=Assessment

“The other properties are taxable and have paid a lot of taxes.

“133 C St has paid none. It seems to be a shelter for depressed penniless Senators and Representatives far from home in need of counseling. Where can tax-deductible charitable contributions of nickels and dimes be sent for this worthy cause?
6/28/2009 4:28:30 PM”

And many more comments below that one….

So why was the Post so totally uninterested in this story for so many months? Where is the Ombudsman?

Vince Treacy
Washington DC
vtreacy@msn.com

Posted by: vtreacy | November 17, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

There is no reason that religious organizations should be tax-exempt, if anything, they should be heavily taxed and hopefully many would go into bankruptcy.

Posted by: kenk3 | November 17, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

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