Rep. Katie Porter’s Sweet UC Irvine Housing Deal Raises Eyebrows

Houses in Orange County go for $1 million, but Porter snagged one for half that with the help of some college friends
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Although Orange County Congresswoman Katie Porter represents an area where houses typically sell for $1 million, Porter’s four-bedroom, three-bath in a sweet subdivision of the University of California Irvine campus is a steal at $523,000, the Associated Press reports.

The Democrat and law professor didn’t just luck into a good deal on a house. She purchased it in 2011 at below-market price through an arrangement in which the university helps out academics who couldn’t otherwise “afford to live in the affluent area.” There is only one eligibility requirement—that Porter continue to work for UC Irvine and meet with students.

But some are raising their eyes since this high-class subsidized housing continues even though she’s spent years away from the classroom. Porter taught for eight years, and then left for Congress after she was elected in 2018. That’s when she first took unpaid leave from her teaching job—which paid $258,000 a year—to serve in the House of Representatives.

Emails obtained by AP show Porter had at least one person working on her behalf, a law school administrator who had donated to her political campaign and “helped secure extensions of her tenure while she remained in Congress.”

Administrators agreed to two separate one-year periods of leave that enabled Porter to keep her house, AP’s documents show. School officials, however, started questioning the arrangement as her 2020 reelection.

“Is there any fixed limit on the number of years of leave without pay… One of our administrators mentioned that they seemed to recall a two-year limit,” law school Vice Dean Chris Whytock, who donated $500 to Porter’s 2018 campaign, wrote in a April 2020 email, adding, “Some government service may, of course, last for a number of years.”

Whytock wrote a memo outlining the case for extending Porter’s leave, according to AP, while suggesting that there are no limits on how long such an arrangement could continue. The plan required the approval of the school’s vice provost, which was granted in 2020, according the the emails.

Whytock did not return AP’s request for comment.

Porter did not address whether or not her housing arrangement was kosher in an interview with AP, but she said she “followed the applicable [University of California] policies, as well as all applicable state and federal law.”

“I am always happy to be transparent with voters,” Porter said. “I take a lot of pride in my record on transparency and good governance and have been asked about this before by voters and have always been happy to give them full and complete information.”

Porter’s housing situation does not violate U.S. House ethics rules. Porter will seek a third term in November.

“It sounds like the sort of insider deal that really makes people mad at Congress,” said Bradley A. Smith, a professor at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, and a Republican former member of the Federal Election Commission.


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