OOPS! It looks like Senator Ma’am herself, Barbara Boxer, the chair of the Senate ethics committee has some “splaining” to do. According to Roger Simon at Pajamas Media that Boxer neglected to disclose that she had a huge interest in a million-dollar residence in Oakland, as well as the mortgage. Since she is in charge of the ethics committee she should know that she violated Senate rules.
The Foundation for Ethics in Public Service (FEPS) has asked both the Ethics Committee and the Department of Justice to investigate Boxer’s lack of disclosure.
The specific property FEPS is referring to is an Oakland, California, home valued at over a million dollars and co-owned by Boxer, her husband Stewart, their son Douglas, and his wife Amy. The letter to Holder reads in part:
Despite the fact that Senator Boxer had an ownership in 854 Longridge Road [in Oakland], she failed to report this substantial real property asset on any of her personal financial disclosures between 2002 and 2010. She had also failed to report the mortgage on the property. Further, she failed to report the purchase of 854 Longridge Road in 2002. Each year Boxer was required to have filed a “full and complete report.”
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The filing of false or incomplete disclosure statements is in violation of the Ethics in Government Act. The Act authorizes the Attorney General of the United States to seek civil penalties against Senators who knowingly and willfully falsify or fail to report required information. The knowing and willful concealment of the existence of substantial amount of real property for a prolonged period may subject Senators to federal criminal prosecution under 18 U.S.C. paragraph 101. [other citations are available in the full letter which is below]
Just two weeks ago there was another report of a Boxer real estate “issue.”
According to an October 13 Washington Examiner article by Marta Mossburg (“It’s time for Sen. Barbara Boxer to come clean on her mortgage loans“), Boxer held no fewer than seven mortgages with Countrywide Financial, the company at the center of the mortgage scandal she was investigating as chair of her committee.
And the most ironic part of all, it was Boxer who as Chair of the Ethics Committee who sent Chris Dodd a letter demanding that he come clean about his Countrywide loans.
Ms. Boxer is an adherent of the of the Progressive meme that there are two sets of rules, one for them and one for the rest of us. Below is the letter that FEPS sent to the Senate Ethics Committee:
The Honorable Mark Pryor, Majority Member
The Honorable Johnny Isakson, Vice Chair
Select Committee on Ethics
United States Senate
Room 220, Senate Hart Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Re: Request for investigation of Senator Barbara Boxer
Dear Vice Chairman Isakson and Senator Pryor:
The Foundation for Ethics in Public Service, a non-partisan, non-profit corporation, respectfully requests that you begin an investigation to determine whether Senator Barbara Boxer, the Chair of this Committee, violated the Senate Rules of Conduct by failing to disclose valuable real property on her Personal Financial Disclosure Reports between 2002 and 2010. Because Senators’ “full and complete public financial disclosure” is at the “heart of the code of conduct” that this Committee and Senator Boxer are charged with enforcing, we believe this matter deserves your full and prompt investigation. See Senate Ethics Manual, Chapter 5, p. 124.
A Home for Senator Boxer’s Adult Son
In February of 2002, a single-family home in Alameda County, California, was conveyed by Vito Badalamenti, Jr., and Sheryl Badalamenti, to the following individuals: Senator Boxer and her husband, Stewart Boxer; and Senator Boxer’s son, Douglas, and his wife, Amy Boxer. The address of the home is 854 Longridge Road, Oakland, California, 94610. The property parcel ID number is 11-883-21. Upon information and belief, the home is worth over a million dollars. Public records indicate that 854 Longridge Road is encumbered by a mortgage, but is still co-owned by Senator Boxer.
Between 2002 and 2010, Senator Boxer appears never to have used 854 Longridge Road as a personal residence or for vacation or recreational purposes. Rather, it appears to have been the residence of her son Douglas, her daughter-in-law, Amy, and their two children. Senator Boxer’s California residence for most of this time (and for almost thirty years) was her home at 286 North Almenar Drive in Greenbrae, Marin County, California. See Beth Ashley, Boxer says goodbye to Marin; senator to split time between Oakland, Washington, and Rancho Mirage, The Mercury News, July 12, 2006.
But in early July 2006, Senator Boxer “downsized.” She and her husband sold and vacated their Greenbrae house to move to a home in Rancho Mirage, California. Id. Since that time, Senator Boxer has kept a home in Washington, D.C., with her daughter, Nichole. She has also continued to own a condominium in Jack London Square, Oakland, with her husband, Stewart. Id. At the time of her move from Greenbrae, Senator Boxer stated: “We needed to downsize… I have a son and daughter-in-law [i.e., Douglas and Amy Boxer] in Oakland. My husband’s office is in Oakland. It made a lot of sense for us to move.” Id. The Mercury News reported that in 2005, “the Boxers bought a house with a pool in Rancho Mirage near Palm Springs and now plan to split their time in Oakland, Southern California and Washington, D.C., where [Senator Boxer] shares a home with daughter Nichole.” Id. Remarking on her new homes, Senator Boxer said, “Jack London Square is a very dynamic area. And I love the beauty of the mountains” in Rancho Mirage. Id.
Accordingly, it appears that Senator Boxer’s only personal residences between 2002 and 2010 were her houses in Greenbrae and Rancho Mirage, her home in Washington, D.C., and the condominium she shares with her husband in the Jack London Square neighborhood of Oakland. She was merely an owner-investor in 854 Longridge Road, which was actually occupied by her son Douglas, his wife, and their two children.
Senator Boxer’s Disclosures Under Rule 34 and the Ethics in Government Act
Despite the fact that Senator Boxer had an ownership interest in 854 Longridge Road, she failed to report this substantial real property asset on any of her personal financial disclosures between 2002 and 2010. See 5 U.S.C. app. § 102(a)(3). She has also failed to report the mortgage on the property. See 5 U.S.C. app. § 102(a)(4). Further, she failed to report the purchase of 854 Longridge Road in 2002. See 5 U.S.C. app. § 102(a)(5). Each year, Senator Boxer was required to have filed a “full and complete report.” See 5 U.S.C. app. § 102(b)(1).
The filing of false or incomplete disclosure statements is in violation of the Ethics in Government Act, which is incorporated into Senate Rule 34. This Committee has jurisdiction over Senators’ compliance with Rule 34. Further, the Ethics in Government Act authorizes the Attorney General of the United States to seek civil penalties against Senators who knowingly and willfully falsify or fail to report required information. 5 U.S.C. app. § 104(a). The knowing and willful concealment of the existence of substantial amount of real property over a prolonged period may subject Senators to federal criminal prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 1001. See also Chapter 5, Senate Ethics Manual (2003 Edition), page 127.
Senator Boxer may assert that she does not co-own 854 Longridge Road for “investment” or for the “production of income” because her adult child, Douglas Boxer, and his family, live in the house. However, neither a desire to help non-dependents nor a professed lack of interest in realizing a return from appreciation on a real estate investment can create a special exception to the disclosure rules. For that reason, Rule 34 draws a bright line between real property that is held “solely” for a Senator’s “recreational or personal purposes,” and real property from which, even in part, a filer may derive income or a return in the form of future appreciation. See Chapter 5, Senate Ethics Manual, page 131. Likewise, the Senate’s General Instructions for filers advises that a “personal residence” used for investment or production of income “must be reported.” See Instructions, Part IIIB. “Conversely, property which is held or maintained purely for recreational or vacation purposes need not be reported.” Id. (emphasis added).
Here, Senator Boxer retains an ownership interest in real property—her non-dependant son’s home—which she does not appear to use for her own residential or recreational purposes. Senator Boxer will benefit from any future appreciation of the property, which was purchased in 2002. Further, it is possible that Senator Boxer derives income from the property, or receives some other benefit, depending on whether Douglas Boxer pays rent to the other owners and depending on the co-owners’ payment of their proportional shares of the mortgage. These circumstances would trigger additional reporting requirements.
Indeed, if Douglas Boxer pays rent or makes the mortgage payments for Senator Boxer’s property, the Committee should also bear in mind recent reporting from other sources regarding Douglas Boxer’s income from his mother’s political action committee (“PAC”) and principle campaign committee during the period in which Douglas Boxer lived at 854 Longridge Road. In 2007, the non-partisan group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (“CREW”) reported that Douglas Boxer’s political consulting company, Douglas Boxer and Associates, had been paid $320,000 from his mother’s two committees between 2001 and 2006. See Exhibit 1, attached hereto. As of September 23, 2010, Senator Boxer’s committees had paid her son another $249,000 for the 2008 and 2010 election cycles. See Jim Geraghty, Barbara Boxer’s Bad Week, Part Four of Five, National Review Online, Sept. 23, 2010, at http://www.nationalreview.com/campaign-spot/247516/barbara-boxer-s-bad-week-part-four-five. This means that in the ten-year period which substantially overlaps Senator Boxer’s ownership of and Douglas Boxer’s residence in 854 Longridge Road, Senator Boxer’s committees have paid her son’s political consulting company approximately $570,000.
The Investigation of the Complaint
The Senate Ethics Manual provides that “public disclosure of assets, financial interests, and investments has been required and is generally regarded as the preferred method of monitoring possible conflicts of interest of Members of the Senate…. Public disclosure is intended to provide the information necessary to allow Members’ constituencies to judge official conduct in light of possible financial conflicts with private holdings.” See p. 125. While filers “must” disclose outside holdings, this Committee has also made clear that Members “may” disclose additional information or provide explanation. Id.
Further, “[c]ertain conduct has been deemed by the Senate in prior cases to be unethical and improper even though such conduct may not necessarily have violated any written law, or Senate rule or regulation. Such conduct has been characterized as ‘improper conduct which may reflect upon the Senate.’” Senate Ethics Manual, Appendix E, p. 432. This requires Senators to comply with both “the letter and spirit of laws and Rules.” Id. at 433.
Further investigation by the Committee or law enforcement, and perhaps additional disclosures by Senator Boxer, will definitively answer the question of whether Senator Boxer has violated Rule 34 and the Ethics in Government Act. Based on the publicly-available information we have detailed here, though, we believe it is likely that for many years, Senator Boxer has failed to report her ownership of valuable real property. This would have deprived her constituents—and indeed all U.S. voters with an interest in Senator Boxer’s official conduct—of an important source of information regarding her financial interests, and possibly, the motivations behind her actions and votes.
We encourage you to make a full and prompt investigation, and in the process, to compel Senator Boxer to fully and publicly account for her and her son’s interest in and financial dealings involving 854 Longridge Road.
Leslie W. Merritt, Jr., CPA
Foundation for Ethics in Public Service, Inc.