Republican U.S. Senator Martha McSally this month demanded that the Department of Defense take action against private landlords who oversee poor living conditions for military families, including mold, asbestos, and vermin contamination.
She did not mince words during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on December 3.
“Are any of them not acting like slumlords at this point? Are any of them doing a good job?” said Senator Martha McSally, a former U.S. Air Force combat pilot. “This pisses me off.” She suggested that CEOs from the responsible companies should spend the holidays in one of their neglected properties.
McSally did not, however, mention that she has accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from one of the private contractors she criticized.
Hunt Corporation, the parent company of Hunt Military Communities, was among the contractors who sent a representative to testify at the December 3 Senate hearing on housing conditions for military families. The company faces lawsuits from families living on military bases in Mississippi and Texas claiming that shoddy construction from Hunt has led to substandard conditions like overnight mold growth and cockroach infestations.
Hunt and its employees have donated more than $12,000 to McSally during her two Senate campaigns.
Most of the Hunt donations came before McSally took up private military housing conditions as a cause.
But not all of them.
McSally received $2,800, the max individual donation, from Woody Hunt, senior chairman of the board of Directors of Hunt Companies, in May 2019. That's well after she called the state of military housing "unacceptable" in February. And well after she first labeled the responsible contractors as "slumlords" in March.
The public scrutiny of private military landlords followed an investigation by Reuters that found slum-like conditions on at least 17 bases. The report highlighted flaws in a Department of Defense program to transfer ownership of military housing to private companies.
Hunt Companies was among the contractors investigated by Reuters. The news organization cited internal Air Force memos showing that Hunt knew its homes were mold-prone as early as 2008, but did little to address the problem. Thirteen military families are suing Hunt over mold infestations at homes at Mississippi's Keesler Air Force base. Reuters spoke to one of the plaintiffs, an Air Force technical sergeant and mother of three, who said mold has been a problem in her family's home since 2011.
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The plight of military families suffering from hazardous housing conditions is an ideal issue for McSally, a veteran who faces a competitive road to re-election against Democratic challenger Mark Kelly. She was among the first lawmakers to criticize military landlords, calling on-base housing conditions "disgusting" during a February committee hearing.
During that meeting, she invited Arizona military families to get in touch with her if they were victims of poor housing conditions. McSally ramped up her rhetoric the next month, calling the private housing contractors "slumlords."
She repeated the headline-earning word this month during a hearing on a scathing Government Accountability Office report on private military housing. McSally also tweeted a photo of herself with military family members who attended the committee hearing.
Yesterday, I called out the slumlords who operate some of our military housing. Today, I was glad to meet family members who agreed—and came to today's House hearing wearing #NotTheSlumlords shirts. Honored to fight for these ladies & the families of all service members. pic.twitter.com/kVVW5i8UTT— Martha McSally (@SenMcSallyAZ) December 5, 2019