According to a new ProPublica report, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) sold his D.C. home in 2017 “to a team led by” former NRA lobbyist John Green for “tens of thousands of dollars above some estimates of the property’s value.” The sale, which totaled $900,000, was “done off-market, without the home being listed for sale publicly.”
Senator Burr has a longstanding relationship with the NRA, which spent $6.2 million to elect him in 2016, the most it has ever spent in a down-ballot race; gave him an A+ rating; and, according to a Mother Jones investigation, appeared to illegally coordinate with his campaign. He has also received the second-most lifetime support from the NRA of any current member of Congress. John Green lobbied for the NRA at least one quarter per year for nearly 20 years until late 2018. Two of the other lobbyists who were part of the real estate deal, Matthew Lapinski and Hunter Moorhead, have also lobbied for the NRA––for 13 and eight years, respectively––until 2018.
The full ProPublica report, written by Robert Faturechi, tells the full story:
- Is the sale legal? The legality of the sale “hinges on whether the home was purchased for fair market value.” According to ProPublica, tax assessors valued the home at “$796,720 in 2017, more than $100,000 less than Green and his business partner paid for it;” Redfin “estimated the home’s value to be $813,973 in the month the house was sold;” and Bob Williams, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent who helps buy and sell homes in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, estimated that in early 2017 Burr’s home “would have sold on the market for around $850,000, possibly more.”
- Ethics experts call foul: Kedric Payne, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center and former deputy chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics, said, “This appears to be extremely problematic.” Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the watchdog group Public Citizen, added: “This has every appearance of being a violation of the gift ban,” which “is one of the most basic legal frameworks for preventing corruption. Lobbyist gifts to lawmakers is akin to a bribe.”
- Green’s 2017 NRA lobbying: “Green worked on behalf of the National Rifle Association on the Hearing Protection Act of 2017, legislation that went before the finance committee, which Burr sits on. The bill would have restricted the ability of states and cities to regulate the sales of firearm silencers. It did not pass.”
- Green and Sen. Burr’s Responses: In a statement, “a Burr spokesperson said the price was the fair market value, ‘directly in line with comparable properties recently sold in the area.’” In his own statement, Green added, “I have not lobbied the Senator or worked on an issue with his office personally since 2016.”
In 2002, James Jay Baker, the recently departed chief lobbyist at the NRA, joined the same firm as Green, where they both lobbied for the NRA. In 2010, Green and Baker both moved to Crossroads Strategies, where they continued to lobby for the NRA. Baker returned to the NRA in 2011 and Green lobbied for the organization at Crossroads Strategies until 2018.