Kevin McCarthy's strange real estate saga: A luxury condo in D.C. and a tract house in California

McCarthy said he'd bet his house the GOP wins next year. But where does he live — and who's paying for it?

Published May 17, 2021 6:00AM (EDT)

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. (Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. (Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has evidently been living the high life when he's at work in Washington. But back in his home district in Bakersfield, California, McCarthy leads a far less glamorous existence, posing the question of how he affords his luxurious digs in the nation's capital. 

McCarthy's home in Bakersfield home is a modest, middle-class residence, a 1,571-square-foot tract house built in 1987, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, that the congressman and his wife purchased in 1996. According to Zillow, the home has an estimated market value around $300,000, and according to McCarthy's 2019 financial disclosure he has a mortgage on the home of between $50,001 and $100,000. Salon is not publishing the precise address but has independently verified the location through public records. 

An extensive search of media records suggests that McCarthy rarely or never conducts interviews or poses for photographs at his Bakersfield home. In 2014, when The Brody File sat down for an "at home" interview with McCarthy and his wife in Bakersfield, the conversation was actually filmed at McCarthy's mother's home a few miles away.

Photos that McCarthy has posted on social media, mostly focused on his dogs, suggest that his Bakersfield property is not in optimal condition, depicting chipped tilesscuffed walls, dirty glass and matted or stained carpeting — the condition of many American homes, no doubt, but a world away from the luxury penthouse where McCarthy has been living in Washington. 

For at least the past two months, McCarthy has stayed in Republican pollster Frank Luntz's 7,000-square-foot condo in the Clara Barton at Penn Quarter development in downtown Washington, an immaculate, gilded showplace with soaring marble columns and a sweeping staircase.

As the Washington Post reported last week, "Besides the 'room' he rented, McCarthy would have had access to a 24/7 concierge, a rooftop pool, a fitness center, a media room, a business center, and a party room with a bar and pool table. The homeownership association fees alone on the units are $4,976 per month, according to" 

A McCarthy spokesperson said the lawmaker paid "a fair market price" for a room in Luntz's condo, but that claim has come under scrutiny, since the minority leader is not a wealthy individual. The Los Angeles Times notes that McCarthy reported a negative net worth in 2015, but by the following year, "he'd gotten rid of a $100,000 mortgage, and his net worth was up to at least $80,000. Along with a mortgage of at least $50,000, McCarthy owed at least $50,000 on a student loan he took for his children."

The Campaign for Accountability, a nonpartisan watchdog organization, wants to know more and is asking the Office of Congressional Ethics to look into whether McCarthy really paid Luntz for his "room" while staying at his luxury apartment, since such an arrangement would likely have violated the Clara Barton condo complex's rules. 

"A top GOP political insider would have violated his building's bylaws by renting a room in his luxury condo to Rep. McCarthy, so we wonder if McCarthy even paid," said Campaign for Accountability executive director Michelle Kuppersmith, in a press release obtained by Salon. "It's time for the Office of Congressional Ethics to take a hard look at this arrangement."

Neither McCarthy's Washington nor California offices returned Salon's request for comment on this story. 

McCarthy told CNN in a 2011 interview, "You know what? I came from the wrong side of the tracks. ... I needed to have a different family." Perhaps McCarthy now has that new family, as his kids reportedly refer to Luntz as "an uncle." In any event, a multimillionaire pollster who also owns luxury properties in California, Nevada and Virginia — and who has distanced himself from the current Republican Party — has been providing housing under mysterious circumstances for the top Republican in the House.

In February, McCarthy told the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that he'd bet his home on the prospect that the GOP would win a congressional majority in 2022. "I would bet my house. My personal house. Don't tell my wife, but I will bet it," he said during his speech to the pro-Trump crowd.

On Friday, longtime Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes hinted at ousting McCarthy as House Republican leader, following the purge of Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming for speaking out against the 2020 election fraud claims pushed by Trump. "Great news that Cheney is no longer in GOP leadership. Next up? Frank Luntz's roomie," Cortes tweeted. 

Questions about McCarthy's living arrangements in Washington first surfaced after Fox News host Tucker Carlson reported that the minority leader had been living in Luntz's luxury condo. 

"Over the weekend, we got a call from a source who said that, in fact, Frank Luntz and Kevin McCarthy are not simply friends; they're roommates," Carlson said in a monologue at the beginning of May. "Kevin McCarthy lives in Luntz's apartment in downtown Washington. That's what we were told, and honestly, we did not believe it. The top Republican in the House lives with a Google lobbyist? Come on. Even by the sleazy and corrupt standards of politics in Washington, that didn't seem possible. In fact, it sounded like a joke."

As it turns out, Carlson's report was correct. After the news broke, McCarthy said he would leave Luntz's apartment and head back to the couch in his Capitol Hill office. Defending his decision to rent a room from Luntz, McCarthy said this during a May 4 Fox News segment: "I met him [Luntz] with Newt Gingrich back when they were working on the 'Contract for America.' As the Democrats took over, they started changing the House around, so, yeah, I rented a room from Frank for a couple of months, but I'm going back to my couch in my office." 

By Zachary Petrizzo

Zachary Petrizzo was an investigative reporter at Salon. Follow him on Twitter @ZTPetrizzo.

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California Fox News Frank Luntz Kevin Mccarthy Real Estate Reporting Republicans Tucker Carlson