Squad member expands rental property ownership while pushing landlord relief fund

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Since early in the pandemic we have been watching the looming issue of what would happen to all of the tenants and landlords around the country when we came out of the mandatory shutdowns. When they began, people were told to stay home and many lost their incomes. In the case of renters, that meant that lots of people stopped paying their rent, including some who could still afford to do so. Both the federal government and various state and municipal governments enacted eviction moratoriums, leaving the landlords with no way to recoup all of their lost rental income. It was easy to see that we could be facing an eviction epidemic when the moratoriums were finally lifted unless something was done about it. The “something” in question of course turned out to be more federal relief for renters with the taxpayers being saddled with the costs. But the landlords needed help as well. In March of last year, “Squad” member Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts introduced a bill to bail out the landlords who lost rental income during that period. The legislation was co-sponsored by AOC and Ilhan Omar as well. But as the Free Beacon discovered this week, Pressley may have had a personal interest in this particular relief effort. After introducing the bill, she purchased yet another rental property, setting herself up to potentially profit from the program.

Massachusetts Democratic congresswoman and “Squad” member Ayanna Pressley quietly expanded her rental property portfolio just two months after she introduced a bill that would provide taxpayer-funded relief for landlords.

Pressley purchased her second rental property, a two-unit home in Boston’s Mattapan neighborhood, for $340,000 in May 2021, according to property records and financial disclosures reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon. Just two months before the purchase, the Democrat—along with fellow Squad members Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.)—introduced a bill that would have created a “landlord relief fund” to reimburse landlords who lost rent payments from March 1, 2020 to April 1, 2022.

Pressley owned and operated at least four rental units during that time period, the Democrat’s financial disclosures show.

Anyone who claims to be a capitalist shouldn’t begrudge others, including members of Congress, the opportunity to invest and try to turn a profit. Many members of both chambers are successful business owners in their non-governmental lives. With that said, however, problems arise when members sponsor legislation that they themselves may profit from at the expense of the taxpayers.

This situation is quite similar to that of members who enact legislation that will benefit private corporations and then invest in those corporations and make a killing on the stock market. The most famous example of this is seen with Nancy Pelosi and her husband Paul, but many other members from both parties have been found doing it. Other examples include legislators who arrange for pork payments in their home states that wind up directly benefitting themselves or their family members.

Pressley was not alone in this situation, by the way. Rashida Tlaib and others were also found to have been collecting rent payments during the pandemic shutdowns. And there was more than a little hypocrisy mixed in with all of this, as they criticized landlords for acting like scavengers during the pandemic.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), who also cosponsored the Pressley-backed landlord relief bill, collected up to $50,000 in rent payments in 2020, her financial disclosures show. Pennsylvania Reps. Matt Cartwright (D.) and Susan Wild (D.), meanwhile, collected up to $130,000 in combined rental income in 2020 as they called for taxpayer-funded assistance for landlords.

Both Tlaib and Pressley publicly criticized landlords even as they raked in rental income. Tlaib in December 2020 stressed the need to protect Americans from “landlords and bill collectors in the midst of a pandemic,” while Pressley has called rent cancellation legislation “literally a matter of life and death” and argued that rental payments force families to “choose between putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head.”

What Pressley and the others appeared to be doing is likely not technically illegal, though the House Ethics Committee may want to take a look into the details. But there is a way around this entanglement that would be immediately available to her. Both the rent relief and landlord relief programs are not automatic. In order to collect any funds from those programs, people have to actively apply and demonstrate that they are eligible for the aid. If Ayanna Pressley sincerely wants to help America’s landlords but isn’t looking to profit from the effort in a dubious fashion herself, she could just publicly declare that she will not apply for or accept any funds from the program, nor will any member of her family.

Then when she files her financial disclosure records, that commitment will either be proven out or it won’t. If she doesn’t apply, she’ll be in the clear. If she does, the voters will have to pass judgment on her decision in the next election. So do you think she’ll follow the course of action described here? Time will tell.