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US Congressman owned home with another man, took DC tax deduction while voting in NC

by Michael Rogers and Leslie Bland

Congressman Patrick T. McHenry (R-NC), right, purchased a residence in Washington, DC's Capital Hill neighborhood with another man, PageOneQ has learned. While he owned the home, McHenry and co-owner Scott G. Stewart claimed eligibility for the District of Columbia's Homestead Tax Deduction, a tax reduction program to encourage homeownership and residence in DC. At the same time McHenry was registered to vote, and did so, in Gaston County, North Carolina.

According to records obtained from the Washington, DC Recorder of Deeds, left (click to enlarge), McHenry, who was first elected to Congress in 2004, and Stewart owned the three bedroom, three-and-a-half bath home from February 2001 to January 2002. The house is located at 1360 D Street, SE, in a neighborhood near the US Capitol.

The DC Recorder of Deeds told PageOneQ that McHenry and Stewart received a $60,000 deduction off the property's assessed value for tax reduction purposes in the second half of 2001. In order to receive the tax reduction, homeowners are required to certify that the property is "occupied by the owner/applicant." The eligibility guidelines state that the "property must be the principal residence (domicile) of the owner/applicant."

At the same time he owned the home and claimed the deduction in DC, North Carolina Board of Elections records show that McHenry voted in Gaston County, NC. McHenry first cast a ballot in Gaston in November 1993. Subsequently, he voted in twenty different elections up through the November 7, 2006 General Election. On November 6, 2001 McHenry voted in a North Carolina polling location. On that date he was also receiving the Homestead Deduction on his DC property.

"Applicants need to submit a form to us that states the residence is their principal home," Irving Gwin of the DC Office of Tax and Revenue told PageOneQ. "The form includes questions about drivers' licenses, vehicle ownership, and voter registration."

Before buying their home together, McHenry and Stewart, pictured at right with former colleagues at the US Department of the Interior, had both been officers of the College Republication National Committee (CRNC). McHenry served as the group's treasurer from 1997 to 1999. From 1999 to 2003, Stewart chaired the organization, known as a "training ground" for political operatives such as Karl Rove, Jack Abramoff, Grover Norquist, and Lee Atwater.

As CRNC chair, Stewart oversaw a two-year fundraising program that the Seattle Times called "aggressive and misleading." Stewart sent letters that bilked seniors of millions of dollars, most of which paid for the fundraising itself and never went to the projects Stewart listed in the letters. Of the $18.8 million the CRNC spent from 2000 to late 2004, 83 percent went to direct mail companies, according to the Durham (NC) Herald-Sun.

According to extensive investigations by the The Seattle Times and the Durham Herald-Sun, most of the top donors were over 80 and confused about to whom they were donating. Rather than to the generally unknown CRNC projects Stewart had recently created, seniors thought they were donating to the Republican National Committee or the 2004 campaign of President George W. Bush.

At the time, there were multiple reports of seniors who gave all of their savings to the group. In one case, the Committee returned $38,000 to a Ft. Wayne, IN woman whose family had hired a lawyer, claiming the woman was suffering from dementia. CRNC said the payback was in no way an admission of wrongdoing. The Ft. Wayne News Sentinel in July of 2002 reported that letters signed by CRNC Chairman Scott Stewart and sent to the woman said "critical Republican programs would be shut down" if she didn't send $200 immediately. The woman's niece told The Ft. Wayne News that Stewart wrote her aunt with the request to "rush me back $300 right now . . . if we delay then the Rule of Law may be dead and America may turn into a Communist police state."

Another CRNC donor told the Seattle Times that she "doesn't have any more money." Cecilia Barbier, a 90-year-old retired church council worker in New York City said, "I'm stopping giving to everybody. That was all my savings that they got."

"I'm really scrounging," Barbier added.

Stewart's operation sent multiple letters from a variety of front organizations. In October, 2004, the Durham Herald Sun reported that CRNC "solicits under different names, such as the National Republican Task Force and the National Republican Victory Campaign. Many seniors have donated to the group repeatedly, often several times in a single day or week."

The Center for Public Integrity reports that during Stewart's chairmanship the College Republican National Committee raised $928,388 in 2001, $7,517,515 in 2002 and $4,556,051 in 2003.

McHenry aide indicted in voter fraud

At the time he owned the Capital Hill home and took the tax reduction for residents, McHenry was registered and voted in Gaston County, NC (see McHenry's voter record below). Earlier this year, McHenry campaign staffer Michael Aaron Lay was indicted on charges of voter fraud for registering at the McHenry home in North Carolina illegally. Lay, claimed the Gaston County prosecutor, voted in two Congressional primaries in which McHenry was running, including one which McHenry won by 85 votes. While Lay was being paid by McHenry's campaign at a Tennessee residence, he registered at McHenry's Requa Drive home in Cherryville. Lay was indicted on May 7th by grand jury and in August agreed to a deferred prosecution deal on misdemeanor charges of registering and voting illegally.

Homeownership used to begin military investigations

A report by PageOneQ editor Mike Rogers on his site revealed that other individuals were registered at McHenry's home around the time of his various election races. In addition to Lay, Neil Everett Capano, Matthew Allen Hamilton, and Jason Jent Deans were all listed on the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

Steve Ralls, communications director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, told PageOneQ last week for a related story, that co-ownership of a home might trigger an investigation under the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. "We advise clients to be very cautious when purchasing a home. Home ownership records are public and may trigger an investigation under the policy," Ralls said on September 14 . "SLDN is aware of cases where servicemembers have been investigated for owning a home with a person of the same gender." McHenry is a staunch supporter of the policy that prohibits openly gay or lesbian Americans to serve in the nation's armed forces.

Messages left with McHenry, his chief of staff Jonathan Causey, and his Communications Director Aaron Latham went unreturned for over 24 hours. Stewart, currently an employee at Shell Oil in Denver, failed to return a Wednesday phone call by Friday morning.

Editor's note: Leslie Bland has joined to research and report on Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10). Leslie blogs at Pat Go Bye Bye and Scrutiny Hooligans.


Originally published on Friday September 28, 2007.

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