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Around the same time, Mr. Lee made a speech on the Senate floor praising the same donor who bought his home. Mr. Lee called the donor a “friend” and suggested the donor’s books and writings might offer a blueprint for compromise in congressional budget talks.

Mr. Phillips said his boss did no other favors for the donor and that the brief mention on the Senate floor was “an off-the-cuff, unplanned remark referencing a single line from a widely sold book” by the donor.

Mr. Lee told a local newspaper in Utah that his sale of the home and the rental of the new property were not connected, but rather separate transactions involving the same friend. He said he gained empathy with average Americans after experiencing the loss of his first home in the short sale.

“It certainly is something that is painful to go through, and I know a lot of people are going through it, and I feel for those who have had to go through it,” Mr. Lee told the Salt Lake City Tribune.

ABC News contributed to this report.