In a possible congressional ethics violation, California Democratic Rep. Lois Capps rented a room in her personal home to one of her congressional staffers for years and did not report the income to the IRS — during that time, or for more than a decade — until 2012. Capps also withheld that information from the proper congressional authorities for five years — from 2001 until early 2006.
The staffer in question was Jeremy Tittle, a “case worker” in Capps’ district office from late 2000 until late 2004. According to Federal Election Commission records, Tittle was also a staffer for Capps’ political campaigns from as early as 2001 to as late as 2004.
Tittle, according to a letter that Capps personal accountant David Powdrell sent to the Legislative Resource Center on Capitol Hill on Feb. 13, 2006, rented the “studio portion of her [Capps’] personal residence in Santa Barbara, California” for several years. Tittle lived in Capps’ home from 2001 to 2005.
During the majority of the time during which Tittle paid Capps rent to live in her home, he was a staffer for both her campaign and her congressional office.
Capps’ failure to tell Congress about the arrangement may be a potential congressional ethics violation — because she had an unreported financial and transactional relationship with a staffer for several years. On its first page, the House Ethics manual says “members, officers and employees of the House should … not in any way use their office for private gain.”
According to the Powdrell letter, Tittle paid the congresswoman $41,480 from 2001 to 2005. Capps campaign spokesman Jeffrey Millman conceded in a phone interview with TheDC that the February 2006 letter from Powdrell was the first time Capps told Congress about the financial relationship she had with her staffer. He also said the room was rented at “market rate.”
“We’re willing to concede that that [letter] was the first time [Capps reported to congressional officials that she had staffer living in her home paying her rent],” Millman said.
Millman dodged, though, when pressed on whether Capps should have told the proper congressional authorities of her transactional relationship with her staffer before that 2006 letter — especially since the relationship was going on for five years. “Her accountant filed an amended financial disclosure form with the House when it was caught,” he said.
“As soon as they became aware of this, they immediately filed a corrected form,” Millman added.
When pressed on how Capps didn’t notice a congressional staffer living in her house paying her rent for five years, Millman again dodged: “When the problem was noticed, it was immediately corrected,” he said.
When further pressed, Millman deflected blame to Capps’ GOP opponent in the upcoming election: “That’s why it’s important for [Abel] Maldonado to publicly release his taxes for every year he’s held public office — to make sure that he’s properly paid his own taxes.”