Let's be clear: White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel did not rent an illegal basement apartment from Rosa DeLauro, a Congresswoman from Connecticut. That's because he stayed there for free. Actually, that's worse.

DeLauro gave a statement to the Hartford Courant after Gawker reported Emanuel's basement-dwelling habits:

I wanted to make clear: we have no separate apartment in our DC house, no rental apartment; all our bedrooms and living areas are part of the house and accessible. They are often used by close family and friends. In mid-November, I got a call from the DC zoning office indicating that somebody had lodged a complaint and asked to inspect the property, which we welcomed. My husband was there for the inspection, which was uneventful and we did not hear again from the zoning office.

Fair enough. For most of the past five years, while he has stayed with DeLauro, Emanuel was serving as a congressman — and there are no rules against members of the House of Representatives giving each other gifts.

But the house on Capitol Hill is also owned by DeLauro's husband, Stan Greenberg, chairman of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a pollster who got paid $4.5 million to do polling and strategy work for the Clinton Administration. DeLauro has said she and Emanuel are friends, and House ethics rules allow gifts, such as free lodging, on the basis of personal friendship. However, gifts over $250 in value require the advance, written approval from the Standards Committee. If such a ruling exists, DeLauro and Emanuel just need to produce it.

Oh, but then, Emanuel is now serving under the supposedly stricter ethics regime of the Obama White House. Free rent from a Democratic pollster? Something doesn't smell right — and it's not just that usual basement mustiness.

But forget about any breaches of minor ethics rules. So Emanuel crashed with DeLauro and Greenberg for five years for free — who cares? What this really tells us is how hopelessly inbred Washington is. We just wish Emanuel had gotten fancier digs in the bargain.