CREW Files IRS and Ethics Complaints Against Rep. Steve Buyer
Washington, D.C. - Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed complaints with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) against Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) and his so-called charity, the Frontier Foundation, Inc. CREW alleges Rep. Buyer has used the charity to foot golf fundraisers at exclusive resorts where he hobnobs with corporate donors – who also contribute to his campaign committee and leadership PAC – who have business before him.
Rep. Buyer helped found Frontier in 2003 and is its honorary chairman. Family members and political confidants, including his daughter and son, make up its board and run its day-to-day operations and it long shared an address with his campaign committee. Although Frontier claims its central purpose is to provide scholarship funds for Indiana students to attend college, in its six years of existence it has not awarded a single scholarship. Even the paltry donations the foundation has made have no relationship to scholarships - largely, they went to a charity run by a pharmaceutical company lobbyist and the NRA.
Instead, Frontier has held fundraisers at exclusive golf resorts where representatives from corporations and trade groups with issues before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which Rep. Buyer sits, have access to the congressman. PhRMA alone has donated over $200,000 to Frontier, with other contributions coming from telecommunications, tobacco and alcohol, health, and the other pharmaceutical interests. These entities also have contributed heavily to Rep. Buyer’s campaign committee and leadership PAC. In addition, PhRMA hired Rep. Buyer’s son, Ryan, straight out of college.
Rep. Buyer has taken legislative action supported by these contributors. In 2007, he helped defeat a provision opposed by drug manufacturers and broadcasters that would have imposed a three-year ban on advertising new drugs, and he later opposed a bill giving the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco.
CREW asked the IRS to investigate whether Frontier violated federal tax law by failing to operate for its stated public purpose of helping needy students and by doing little more than paying for the congressman to play golf with donors with interests before his committee.
CREW also asked the OCE to investigate whether Rep. Buyer violated ethics rules by abusing a charity for private purposes and by trading legislative assistance for donations to the charity and a job for his son.
CREW executive director Melanie Sloan stated, “Apparently, Rep. Buyer did not pay very close attention to the Jack Abramoff scandal. He seems to have missed the lesson that charities are not created to allow congressmen to play golf with their cronies. It is not quite stealing from orphans, but it is hard to imagine something much more callous than playing golf on the backs of poor students – at least one of whom surely could have gone to college on the money Frontier spent on Rep. Buyer’s golf trips.” Sloan continued, “The IRS, at least, frowns on such behavior. There is always hope Congress will too.”
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Stephen Santulli at 202.408.5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.