Atlanta Journal-Constitution (TNS)
ATLANTA — On his Fox News program last summer, Sean Hannity effused praise for his guest, U.S. Housing Secretary Ben Carson. "I know you have done a good job," Hannity said. "You are a good man."
Carson’s presence gave Hannity a chance to address a favorite topic: What he considers a low rate of homeownership in the United States. He noted that Carson’s agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, assists low-income Americans in finding affordable homes to rent. "And people need help," Hannity said. "I’m a Christian. I believe we have a role. But I like the idea of them owning the place."
At no time during the interview, however, did Hannity disclose his own role in the housing market — or the help he has received from Carson’s agency. News organizations generally disclose such potential conflicts of interest.
Hannity, one of the nation’s most popular television and radio conservative commentators, has amassed a real estate portfolio worth about $90 million, most of it rental homes in Georgia and six other states. HUD, the agency that Carson now heads, guaranteed about $22 million in loans on two of Hannity’s apartment complexes in Georgia.
Hannity’s real estate holdings were first disclosed Monday by the British newspaper the Guardian. The newspaper’s report followed the revelation last week that Hannity is a client of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer. Federal agents raided Cohen’s office and hotel earlier this month, seeking, among other items, documents on Cohen’s $130,000 payment to a pornographic film actress who says she had a sexual affair with Trump several years ago. Hannity has said he consulted Cohen only about real estate matters.
Through a spokesman in his New York office, Hannity declined a request for an interview Monday. On his website, Hannity denied discussing the loans with anyone at HUD and noted that one had been approved under former President Barack Obama. Later, on the radio, he suggested the story about his holdings was retaliation for his support of Trump.
How Hannity acquired so much real estate — more than 870 homes, according to the Guardian — is a complicated tale involving more than two dozen shell companies, a wealth-management firm and its lawyers, all based at the same address in Kennesaw, Ga.
Since 2005, Hannity has created 28 limited-liability companies under variations of the name "SPMK," according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. His name does not appear on publicly filed corporate documents, but he has signed loan papers that identified him as the firms’ owner.
Hannity’s property holdings include single-family homes purchased for as little as $50,000, apartment complexes, and high-end real estate on Long Island, N.Y., where he lives.