When Rep. Kurt Schrader voted against the initial passage of the American Rescue Plan last year, he faced intense backlash from fellow Democrats in his Central Oregon district. The vote was Schrader’s third controversial action in as many months, following his opposition to the overwhelmingly popular $2,000 stimulus checks and a statement that compared the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump to a “lynching” earlier that year. For local Democrats, it was the last straw.
In a blistering letter signed by the party chairs from the five counties that make up Schrader’s current district, local leaders lambasted their representative for not “consulting with communities in this district” before his vote. They labeled Schrader’s actions a “betrayal of [his] duty to best serve [his] constituents” and claimed that the episode was an indication of “how out of touch with [his] constituents” Schrader has become.
Schrader ultimately bowed to pressure and voted in favor of the final version of the American Rescue Plan, but his out-of-touch reputation has stuck. He now faces a primary challenge from Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a board member of the Jefferson County Education Service District, who reiterated the sentiment that Schrader is disconnected from his district in a recent interview, pointing to his key role in blocking prescription drug reform amid large campaign contributions from corporate interests.
But Schrader’s controversial votes and words may not be the only reason he has failed to connect with local Democrats. A review of Kurt and Suzanna Schrader’s public disclosures, travel records, and statements further illuminates the representative’s tenuous relationship with local officials and constituents. Schrader does not refer to an Oregon address in several years’ worth of filings with the Oregon Secretary of State, opting to list his home in Washington, D.C., as his primary address instead. His adult sons appear to manage and live on a local farm that he contends is his residence in the district, and his current wife, whom he met and married in Maryland, still refers to her property there as home. Despite owning property in his district, Schrader does not appear to spend much time in Oregon.
“I have been proud to call Oregon’s 5th Congressional District my home for over 40 years,” Schrader said in a statement to The Intercept. “My farm in Canby is where I raised my family and grew organic crops as I built up my veterinary practice. Representing the values and priorities of my neighbors in our nation’s capital is my greatest honor, and I am proud of my work for the district and the close local relationships I have formed over the years. While I am deeply disappointed by the politically motivated attacks against me, they will not stop me from doing my job and delivering for Oregonians.”
While Schrader’s relationships with his district’s local leaders have chilled, his family’s roots in the area run deep. He founded a veterinary practice in Oregon City in the 1970s and purchased the farm he now claims as his residence in the 1980s. Schrader originally ascended to public office as a member of the Canby Planning Commission before being elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1996 and the State Senate in 2002. When he successfully ran for Congress in 2008, his former wife, Martha Schrader, was appointed to replace him. (She served the remainder of Schrader’s term but failed to win reelection.)
After their divorce in 2011, Kurt Schrader kept possession of the farm, currently his voting address. While Schrader’s financial disclosures list him as the property’s owner, the farm’s now-defunct website listed Schrader’s son, RJ Schrader, as the owner and operator. RJ and his brother Steven both claim the four-bedroom home as their voting residence.
In addition to the Canby farm, Schrader owns a home in Washington, D.C., which he purchased shortly before his divorce from his first wife in 2011. He also owns property in New York. While owning multiple homes is commonplace for members of Congress, in multiple filings to the Oregon Secretary of State, Schrader has listed his D.C. and New York properties as his primary residence rather than his purported home in Canby, Oregon.
Schrader’s own financial disclosures cast doubt on whether the Canby farm is his personal residence. Since beginning his tenure in Congress in 2008, Schrader has claimed rental income from the property ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 each year. It is unclear whether these rental payments are from Schrader’s sons or whether the property is rented in any other capacity. Neither son responded to The Intercept’s requests for comment.
Schrader’s travel spending also calls his relationship with the farm and the district as a whole into question. Representatives are allotted an annual travel budget to visit their districts each year, but disbursement statements from the last 12 years reveal that Schrader has used significantly less of these funds than the average House member or members representing nearby exurban and rural Oregon districts.
While Schrader has utilized relatively little of the money dedicated to regular travel home to see his constituents, he recently made waves in right-wing media for his questionable decision to eschew the typical summer work period in favor of a cross-country road trip with his wife, Suzanna Mora-Schrader, and their horses. Suzanna, whom Schrader married in a New Year’s Eve ceremony in Maryland in 2016, is a former executive and lobbyist for D.C. energy company Pepco. She maintains a horse farm in Clarksburg, Maryland, and continues to report the property as her primary residence.
The trip, which started at the Maryland property on August 1 and ended at Schrader’s claimed residence in Canby on August 22, spanned the majority of the district work period, when members are expected to return to their district to catch up on issues affecting their constituents. In her blog recounting the cross-country trip, Suzanna indicated that the representative declined to spend the remainder of the district work period in Oregon after their arrival. Instead, he returned to D.C. the next day for a showdown over a budget resolution meant to enable passage of the indefinitely stalled Build Back Better Act, which, with the help of corporate interest group No Labels, he played a key role in delinking from the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Suzanna returned to her property in Maryland — which she still calls home — days later. The horses, for their part, remained in Oregon for another few weeks before being shipped commercially back to Maryland. All told, they spent substantially more time in Oregon’s 5th Congressional District than its representative or his wife did.
Correction: February 8, 2022
This article previously stated that Jamie McLeod-Skinner was a member of the Jefferson County School Board. She is a board member of the Jefferson County Education Service District.