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Mahoney Taken To Court In Rent Case

These days, even wealthy Members of Congress are singing the economic blues.

According to court documents obtained by Roll Call, millionaire Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.) wound up before a Washington, D.C., judge last year for bouncing a rent check on his Capitol Hill apartment, while Florida property records show that the freshman lawmaker’s South Florida district residence is a horse barn.

Court documents allege that Mahoney, an investment banker whose financial disclosure forms show he is worth at least $3.5 million, did not pay $1,500 in July 2007 for rent on his Capitol Hill apartment at 610 Third St. SE.

Friedman Real Estate, which filed the complaint on July 12, 2007, also sought $400 in late charges and a $50 “bounced check fee.” Court papers also show that the District government and postal service repeatedly tried to deliver court papers to the lawmaker’s residence near Garfield Park. Court notices addressed to Mahoney’s apartment were stamped “return to sender … vacant” by the U.S. Postal Service.

A judge for the Superior Court for the District of Columbia dismissed Mahoney’s case on Sept. 6, 2007, according to court documents.

Both the management company and its lawyers declined repeated requests to discuss the case, but Mahoney spokeswoman Leslie Pollner-Levey said the incident was simply a run-of-the-mill rental property dispute and that both parties have moved on.

“Congressman Mahoney and his landlord were able to sit down and the issue was resolved amicably,” Pollner-Levey said. “The Congressman has extended his lease and he continues to reside there.”

Pollner-Levey declined to provide Roll Call with details of the incident.

Meanwhile, back home, the Congressman and his family live in a typical suburban dwelling in Democratic Rep. Ron Klein’s adjacent district. Mahoney’s office confirmed that Florida voter rolls list his address at a horse barn located in his district.

His office said the barn includes an efficiency apartment and that the couple anticipates building “their dream home” on the farm once the family finally finds a buyer for their current house — a sale that is proving to be difficult.

“Congressman Mahoney takes a homestead exemption at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, which has been on the market for more than a year,” Pollner-Levey said. “He is registered to vote at [the horse farm], where he and his wife hope to build their dream home.”

Pollner-Levey also said that “the housing market is killing him” and suggested that the Mahoney family — perhaps like many of his constituents — is feeling the pinch of the sluggish economy.

“Florida has a really soft housing market right now and it’s been really hard to sell the house,” she said.

Florida secretary of state spokeswoman Jennifer Krell Davis told Roll Call on Wednesday that Mahoney’s use of two addresses doesn’t necessarily put him at odds with state law.

Still, the political implications can be costly.

Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), whose Boca Raton-based district adjoins Mahoney’s, was the recent target of news reports showing his family likely lives full time in Maryland.

According to published reports, Wexler was registered to vote at the Florida home of his in-laws. There was just one problem: His wife’s parents live in a community that prohibits children — including the lawmaker’s — from living there.

Last week, the Palm Beach Post reported that the Wexlers had recently rented an apartment in the Boca Raton area.

“Residency is a very soft term in Florida law and is determined on a case-by-case basis,” Krell Davis said. “There’s not a silver bullet that says you’re a resident.”

Krell Davis also said that there is no requirement in Florida that Mahoney, Wexler or other federal lawmakers live or register to vote in their districts so long as they live in the state, although the ultimate arbiters are Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and others in House leadership.

“Residency for Congressional candidates requires that they are residents of the state, which is provided for by the U.S. Constitution,” Krell Davis said. “In the U.S. Constitution, it provides that the Congressional leadership is the final decider for the qualifications of a Congressional candidate.”

Mahoney is in a tough re-election battle with attorney Tom Rooney (R).

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