Rep. Paul Broun assailed by watchdog group

Broun

ATHENS, Ga. — U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, was named one of the “most corrupt members of Congress” by a Washington, D.C., watchdog group on Wednesday, the same day a local organization aimed at stopping his Senate candidacy filed for federal recognition.

Broun, whose 10th District represents a portion of the Augusta area, was named to the annual list put together by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington for the second consecutive time.

The congressman, however, rebuts the criteria used for his inclusion.

The listing stems from his “failure to disclose the true source and terms of his campaign loans,” according to the group’s report.

When he ran for the congressional seat in 2007, he reported making personal loans without interest to his campaign. In 2010, his campaign reported making more than $30,000 in interest payments to Broun, according to the report.

Broun was one of 13 members of Congress – four Democrats and nine Republicans – named in the report.

In 2011, after the watchdog group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, Broun’s then-spokesman blamed the mix-up on an “inexperienced staffer who made a simple error” when reporting the loan. The loan stemmed from a home equity line of credit through Athens First Bank & Trust and included market-rate interest, the spokesman said.

Broun’s campaign finance reports were amended in 2012 and included two previously undisclosed loans, as well as new information on the known loans, according to the report. The newly disclosed loans totaled about $207,000, bringing the total for the loans in question to $321,000.

The group is alleging that Broun violated several campaign finance laws by mischaracterizing the bank loans as coming from personal funds and might have violated others by failing to disclose the loan in the amended 2010 report. The report cites a congressional rule that members of the House of Representatives conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House” in condemning Broun. An investigation by the FEC is pending, according to the group’s report.

“Incredibly, Rep. Broun is now seeking a promotion to the Senate without ever fully explaining the source of money he used to get elected to the House,” its executive director, Melanie Sloan, said in a news release. “Members of Congress should not be able to evade the basic requirements of the law by relentlessly obfuscating the truth.”

In response, Broun’s office sent a report from the Office of Congressional Ethics, labeled confidential, that reads “there is not substantial reason to believe that a violation of House rules or federal law occurred” in relation to Broun’s earning interest income from the loan. The Aug. 24, 2012, report show that the ethics board unanimously recommended the House Committee on Ethics dismiss the allegations of wrongdoing.

“I cooperated fully with the Office of Congressional Ethics during their thorough review of these baseless charges,” Broun said in a statement. “Additionally, I worked with the Federal Election Commission to update all my campaign’s previous filings. In the end, the OCE voted unanimously, and on a bipartisan basis, to recommend dismissal of this matter. This so-called ‘watchdog’ group doesn’t care about the facts, they just care about advancing their fundraising efforts.”

A spokesman from his campaign, who also serves as his spokesman in the House of Representatives, did not respond to a request for comment about the local group forming to end Broun’s Senate hopes. The group, Trust 2014, formally opposes fellow Senate candidates and U.S. Reps. Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston, too, though it originated with opposition to Broun.

Caroline Daniel Ramsey, the lead adviser for Trust 2014 and its Crush campaign, described the three men as nonprogressive in their views, clarifying “when I say progressive, I don’t mean liberal; I mean thinking like it’s 2013.” She said the men are so polarizing and antagonistic that it is difficult to have civil discourse about their beliefs and policies or even trust them.

“You want to trust your politicians like you trust your neighbors,” she said.

Ramsey and fellow campaign organizer Michael Smith have roots in the Organizing for Action campaign, which stemmed from President Obama’s re-election efforts.

The idea of the new political action committee is to raise the level of rhetoric in politics to where people can have civil discourse and find common ground to move forward, they said. Its aim is to talk with swing voters leading up to the election about their choices, though it does not officially advocate for any candidate.

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