The secretive, elite Christian fellowship known as "The Family" will no longer be able to avoid paying property taxes on the posh brick townhouse it owns on Washington's C Street. The group had been avoiding property taxes by calling itself a tax-exempt church.
Natalie Wilson, a spokesperson for the city's Office of Tax and Revenue, told TPMMuckraker that her office inspected the house this summer:
"It was determined that portions of it were being rented out for private residential purposes," she said. As a result, the tax exempt status was partially revoked. Sixty-six percent of the value of the property is now subject to taxation.
According to online records, the total taxable assessment is $1,834,500. The building's owner last month paid taxes of $1714.70 on the property.
Among the lawmakers who reportedly lived at the former convent -- and enjoyed below-market rents -- were Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.). There have also been reports that Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) is a resident, though he refused to confirm that to his local paper.
Other members of the group reportedly include Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Congressmen Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), John Tanner (D-Tenn.) and Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.).
Among the things that led to questions about the group's tax-exempt church status were the numerous extramarital affairs its members have been embroiled in:
* An alienation of affection lawsuit filed earlier this year by the estranged wife of former Congressman Charles W. "Chip" Pickering (R-Miss.) alleged that he had an extramarital affair while living at the group's house.
* When former Congressman and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford held a press conference earlier this year where he confessed to having an extramarital affair, the conservative Republican said "C Street" is where men face "hard questions."
* Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) reportedly moved out of the house after being confronted by fellow members about an affair with an aide's wife. He now faces possible expulsion from the Senate and criminal penalties over his actions.
The Family has also been in the news recently for the key role its members played in inserting a far-reaching anti-abortion amendment in the House health care reform bill. Writing about that recently at Salon.com, "The Family" author Jeff Sharlet wrote discussed how the group plays a key role in "a culture war strategy designed to take territory within the Democratic Party as well the GOP."