Pete Stark on his Maryland home tax break

Bloomberg moved an article today saying Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, “has been taking advantage of a tax break for a home in Maryland that he claims as his principal residence,” to the effect that in 2007 and 2008 he “saved a total of $3,853 in state and Anne Arundel County taxes on a Maryland waterfront home that he claims as his primary residence, according to Maryland tax disclosures.”

The California Republican Party wasted no time in sending the article out to reporters as one of those “In Case You Missed It” e-mail blasts. I talked to Stark today, and he doesn’t see the big deal.

“I’ve owned this house I believe since 1988 … and I believe I’ve had this exemption all that time,” he said. “In ‘07, Maryland changed their law and said if people were going to get the principal residence deduction, they had to affirmatively apply and be approved. Prior to that, I had never heard from them.”

“So in January, I got a form and it asked those questions: Do I live in this house more than six months a year and over a period of July 1? The answer is yes. Do I file Maryland and federal income tax from this address? Yes. Do I vote at this address? No. Do I have my driver’s license here? No.”

Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution says a member of Congress must “when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.” Stark – elected to the House in 1972, and now second-ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee as well as chair of its influential Health Subcommittee – said he rents a home in Fremont and occupies it when back here in his district to satisfy that constitutional requirement.

More after the jump…

As the Bloomberg article notes, the Associated Press recently reported a similar story about Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY; Maryland authorities have now disallowed his primary residence deduction. Stark said he understands Maryland has about 180,000 applications for the deduction to wade through: “My guess is sometime this year they will deny my principal residence deduction and my taxes will go up, end of story. It was nice while it lasted.”

But he doesn’t see anything wrong with what he has done in years past, he said.

“If I owned a house in California, there’s no way I could’ve taken the principal residence deduction here” in Maryland, Stark said. “But my guess is we spend two-thirds of the time here, my kids go to school here in Maryland. By any definition of where I spend most of the time, it would be in the Washington, DC area – this is where I work.”

So taking the deduction, he said, seemed fair; if Maryland’s new rules disallow it, he’s OK with that, too.

Stark said he hears reporters might be sniffing around another of his personal financial situations.

Soon after President George W. Bush took office, a former Clinton White House official who had become a lobbyist rented a D.C. townhouse from Stark. Stark said before entering into the lease, he had asked House Ethics Committee staffers whether it was OK for a member of Congress to rent property to a lobbyist, and they advised him that it was. Several months later, he said, Ethics Committee member Stephanie Tubbs Jones informed him that it wasn’t quite kosher, and he that he should move to end the lease as soon as possible. He did so, the lobbyist moved out and that was that, he said.

UPDATE @ 1:50 P.M. THURSDAY 3/26: Hey, guess what? This happens on both sides of the aisle.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Matt Rempel

    Pete Stark will do whatever he wants, because the voters in this district will continue to re-elect him every two years regardless. He has also hired his wife as a political consultant to work for his campaign, maybe not illegal, but pretty unethical. Stark acts like this champion for the working class and poor, but make no mistake about it – he is a rich, liberal, elitist. Sickening.

  • RR

    Pete is a hero to atheists and Stuck-in-the-Sixties aging hippies. He could always swap seats with Barbara Lee.


    Apparently, Rep. Stark admits that his principal residence is in Maryland and he should by all means get the tax credit there, however, the US Constitution requires that Representatives be residents of the state they represent. Stark obviously can’t claim residency in the 13th district. Let,s find someone who lives here to represent us. It’s high time for a change!

  • Gail

    It seems to me that it makes sense for Pete Stark to primarily live in the D.C. area. We sent him there to represent the 13th congressional District in California, and most of the countries business is conducted at the Capitol and the White House. What is so wrong with living within an hour of your primary place of work? He does have a home (although it seems to belong to his wife’s parents) in San Lorenzo. It would be good if he came west more than one time a month but he is one of the only congressional representatives or Senators who has town meetings almost monthly open to anyone!

    As for his being wealthy, there is nothing wrong with that!. We hope that our President as well as members of congress represent the “average middle class voter” but these days it takes money to be in the political arena.

    I wish folks who complained had reasonable solutions. Most of the folks who criticize our government officials have no idea of their voting record, or legislation they sponsored or co-sponsored and many of them I bet never even bother to vote!. If folks want to replace Pete Stark- let’s have someone who has been fighting for Universal Health Care since 1985 step up to the plate! And someone who has good solutions to the problems of our area and the country!

  • Matt Rempel

    Universal health care?? You gotta be kidding. Are you nuts?? The last thing I want is the government running health care. Look at the situation we are in now with the economy, and you want the gov to take over health care? wow.

  • Edward Lynch

    Stark and Wexler are guilty of violating the constitutional requirement to be inhabitants of the state that they are supposed to represent. He admits that he spends most of his time in DC. As such, he admits that he is a resident, domiciled in and an inhabitant of Maryland……..not California. That is a clear violation of the constitution (Article I, section 2). They are also guilty of voter fraud, mortgage fraud, tax fraud, dmv fraud and insurance fraud. They need to be removed from office. Why should we be expected to follow the law if our own “lawmakers” will not? Go to http://www.wexlersweb.com

  • Kevin

    Sickening how democrats cheat on taxes, yet spend our money.
    Funny how they always have an excuse-..i did for years…I’m a law maker but unaware of law, how convenient.
    -really how you ‘represent’ California and claim Maryland as primary residence and own townhouse in DC?
    Starke should run for office in Maryland NOT California.
    Better yet he should get out of Congress and let someone honest run for office.

  • BJD

    You know, Ms. Dole did the same thing. This isn’t a one party or the other issue. You people are so blind with bias it blows my mind.

  • MN

    You all are idiots for not knowing your history of Congress, or for that matter the individual situations of many sitting Congressmen. Up until the 1970’s or so, most Congress members (both D and R) set up permanent residence in DC and moved their families here. Their kids went to school together. Their families had dinner and parties together. In fact, many scholars (including Norm Ornstein at the conservative AEI) argue that the increased vitriol on Capitol Hill in recent memory has more to do with Congressmembers not spending time together anymore outside of work. You’re more civil when you work with friends, even if they’re on the other side of the aisle. Lots of older members of Congress still do this, Stark being one of them. Ornstein explains it here http://www.rollcall.com/issues/54_136/ornstein/35207-1.html

    Second, you’d be essentially throwng out all Congressmembers west of the Mississippi if you demanded they can’t live in the DC area. Many congressmembers, including the Hawaii, Alaksa, and West Coast delegations don’t get to go home more than once a month. The travel is too grueling. The section of the Constitution everyone is citing is outdated; it never accounted for the possibility that members of Congress could hail from so far away. And before air transit, it was even harder for Congressmembers to go home! So before you engage in patisan demagoguery, please use your head. It’s there for a reason.

  • Rick Larsen

    Town hall meetings? Pete has resorted to invite only phone in Town Hall meetings. Seems like someone can’t take the heat anymore. Time to get someone who actually lives in the district.