Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R., N.C.) sold his D.C. townhouse off-market for above market-price to a group led by a donor and powerful lobbyist connected to him, raising possibilities that the arraignment could violate Senate ethics rules.
The 2017 sale, first reported by ProPublica, was not disclosed by either Burr or lobbyist John Green, even though the sale price of $900,000 is tens of thousands of dollars above some estimates of the property’s value at the time, which could qualify the purchase as a gift.
Green provided ProPublica with a property evaluation that his company commissioned in 2018, which was done well after the sale because “one of the LLC members wanted to review the transaction after the fact to document it,” according to Green’s spokesman. The evaluation found that comparable properties in the area sold for an average sale price of about $855,000, with two similar homes to Burr’s that sold for $898,000 and $989,000.
“The subject property was sold off-market, which some would consider a lucky break and will often pay more than market value to secure, due to the pressures of supply and demand,” the report states.
Burr’s spokesperson said in a statement that the transaction was “directly in line with comparable properties recently sold in the area.” In 2003, Burr paid $525,000 for the house, which is a half mile away from the Capitol.
“The sale was finalized in February 2017 after a months-long process, which included an independent appraisal confirming the building’s market value and legal review of the title and contract,” the spokesperson said. “The Senate Ethics Committee was notified before the sale and the Committee’s guidance was followed on all relevant public financial disclosures.”
Green also denied wrongdoing, saying in a statement that “I have not lobbied the Senator or worked on an issue with his office personally since 2016.”
According to a source, Green planned to use the conveniently located home as a lobbying office, a fundraising venue, and an overnight place for clients and associates to sleep instead of a hotel.
Burr and Green’s history goes back nearly 20 years, with the lobbyist donating at least $13,300 to Burr’s political committees since 2001. In 2017, Green lobbied the Senate on behalf of pharmaceutical giant Merck on the Right to Try Act, legislation that passed and allows patients with life-threatening conditions to access experimental drugs. Burr, who sits on the Senate health committee, co-sponsored the bill on February 7 — the same month his house was sold.
Last month, Burr came under fire after financial records showed he had sold off $628,000 to $1.7 million in stock — a significant share of his total holdings — ahead of the coronavirus market dip, with the DOJ, SEC, and FBI all looking into the dealings over possible insider trading.