Blog — Campaign Finance Reform
Last week, CREW named Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) one of the most corrupt members of Congress for the second year in a row, citing his failure to disclose the true source and terms of his campaign loans. In response, Rep. Broun said he had cooperated with an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which had cleared him of “these baseless charges.” The report he released, though, doesn’t clear him of CREW’s charges at all.
In 2007, Rep. Broun reported loaning his campaign committee hundreds of thousands of dollars. His campaign told the Federal Election Commission (FEC) the money was from the congressman’s personal funds, and he was charging no interest on the loan. Nonetheless, in February 2010, the campaign curiously began making what it described as “interest payments” to Rep. Broun — payments that eventually totaled more than $30,000. In March 2012, CREW released its Family Affair report, which questioned the interest payments. In response, Rep. Broun directly contradicted his own campaign filings, telling the Athens Banner-Herald the interest actually went to a bank that had loaned him the money. Rep. Broun didn’t disclose additional information about the bank or the terms of the loan — information he’s required to report to the FEC because, of course, it’s illegal for members of Congress to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their campaigns without telling the public the truth about the source of the money.
In April 2012, CREW filed a complaint with the FEC. Rep. Broun blamed the years of inaccurate campaign filings on a “simple mistake,” and promised to clear them up. Two months later, he amended his campaign finance reports to disclose the source of the loan as a home equity line of credit from Athens First Bank & Trust that carried a 5.99 percent interest rate. He also listed previously undisclosed loans.
This week, Rep. Broun released a one-page document showing the OCE looked into whether he failed to disclose the interest payments as income on his personal financial disclosure statements — an allegation CREW didn’t make. According to the document, in August 2012, OCE recommended the House Ethics Committee dismiss that matter. CREW’s FEC complaint, however, remains pending.
The real issue here is that six years after making these loans — and more than a year after disclosing additional ones that went unmentioned at the time — Rep. Broun still refuses to come clean about why it took him so long to tell the public where he got the money. If someone made a simple mistake, as he says, why did it take months to amend his campaign filings after CREW pointed out the error?
According to Rep. Broun, the fact that the OCE absolved him of unrelated charges, and he amended campaign filings, means he doesn’t have to explain why it took him so long to square things with the public. CREW believes in more accountability than that.
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