ATHENS, Ga. -- Almost $30,000 in campaign contributions wound up in U.S. Rep. Paul Broun’s wallet in the form of interest on personal loans he made to his campaign, according to an ethics report released Thursday.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan nonprofit, and the watchdog Web site Open Secrets examined campaign finance records and found that Broun -- whose district represents a large part of the Augusta area -- and 247 other congressmen “use their positions to financially benefit themselves or family members.”
Broun’s campaign committee paid the congressman $28,756 in interest on $309,000 in personal loans he made to bankroll his underfunded 2007 and 2008 races, even though the committee told the Federal Election Commission the loans were interest-free, CREW reported.
“Most Americans open savings accounts when they want to earn a little interest on their money,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said. “Rep. Broun raked in nearly $30,000 in interest on loans he made to his campaign, essentially diverting campaign donations to his own pocket.”
Federal law allows campaigns to pay a reasonable commercial interest rate on loans, but the rate paid to Broun was “awfully high,” Sloan said.
She also called reimbursements to Broun for campaign expenses “quite high” compared to other congressmen, and said constituents have no way of knowing if the expenses are legitimate.
The Paul Broun Committee reimbursed him $167,322 for mileage, dry cleaning, postage, office supplies, advertising, direct mail and other expenses in 2009 and 2010, according to CREW. He was reimbursed $1,625 and his wife $626 for similar expenses during the 2008 election cycle.
Broun’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
The report also names Georgia Democratic Reps. Hank Johnson, Sanford Bishop, John Lewis and David Scott, and Republican Reps. Jack Kingston, Austin Scott and Phil Gingrey.
Other questionable campaign expenses in the 347-page report include the $30,000 Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., paid to stay at a five-star hotel in Athens, Greece, and $500,000 Rep. Jerry Lewis, D-Calif., paid his wife, who works in his congressional office.