Dirty Laundry: John Spratt, One of Congress' Richest, Underreports Home Value

January 4, 2010

John Spratt, One of Congress’ Richest, Underreports Home Value

Violates House Rules, Lists Home as Nearly Half-Million Less Than It’s Worth



SPIN CYCLE: Speaker Pelosi Vowed that Democrats Would Lead the “Most Honest, Most Open, and Most Ethical Congress in History”


“Our goal is to restore accountability, honesty and openness at all levels of government. To do so, we will create and enforce rules that demand the highest ethics from every public servant, sever unethical ties between lawmakers and lobbyists, and establish clear standards that prevent the trading of official business for gifts.” (Nancy Pelosi’s “A New Direction for America,” Page 21)


RINSE CYCLE: Sketchy Underreporting on Home Value Prompts Reporters to Ask Questions


House Budget Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.) appears to have underreported the value of his Washington, D.C., home by several hundred thousand dollars on his annual financial disclosure form, but he said the ethics committee approved the form.


Nevertheless, Spratt said he would amend his disclosures to reflect the higher value of the home.


Spratt told Roll Call that the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct had approved of the way he reported the home and that he was listing only his share of the value, not his wife’s share. But he also said he would ask the committee to amend the form to list the full value.


Spratt lists on his most recent financial disclosure form his D.C. residence near the National Cathedral and reports the value as $500,000 to $1 million. According to D.C. property tax records, the value of the home is actually about $1.4 million for the current tax year and was in the same range in 2008.



Members are not required to list the value of their personal residences on their disclosure forms unless they derive income from the property. Spratt apparently occasionally rents a portion of the home and reported in 2008 that it generated rental income of $1,000 to $2,500.


House rules require that when reporting the value of real property, Members rely on a current appraisal or a tax assessment. In the alternative, a Member may list the actual purchase price and the date of purchase of the property, or another method for establishing a “good faith” estimate of value, but the rules require that the method be explained and an actual value be listed instead of a range.


The assets owned by the spouse of a Member must also be disclosed on the forms.


Spratt was 37th on Roll Call’s list of the 50 richest Members of Congress last year, with a minimum net worth of just less than $7 million. The addition of the actual value of his home would bump him up about four spots on the list, but if he did not derive any rental income from the property in 2009, he could drop it from his form entirely when the next disclosures are due in May, and his net worth would appear to drop as well. (Paul Singer, “Spratt to Revalue Home in Financial Disclosure Amendment,” Roll Call, 2/03/2010)


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