Paul Broun announced yesterday that he misses the $174,000 he used to make in a taxpayer funded salary. After shopping various districts he’s decided to run against Congressman Doug Collins of Gainesville in Georgia’s 9th district. Broun, a Congressman from Athens in the 10th Congressional district, now claims Clarkesville as home. But no matter. He’s legally allowed to serve wherever the voters elect him. As such, the people that Broun has decided to offer himself to will need to know how to choose between uber-Conservative Collins and interloper Broun. I’m here to help. Buckle up. And pace yourself. This one is going to take more than one sitting. Or you can read the Cliff’s Notes from an ad where Congressman Collins “welcomes” Broun into the race.
Let’s start with Matthew 7, 15-20:
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
So what fruit has the political career of Paul Broun borne? Let’s take a look.
First up we have the “outsider” image that Paul Broun loves to stoke. “He’s not a career politician!”. Well, not a terribly successful one. Broun ran for Congress in 1990 and 1992, both times unsuccessfully – from Georgia’s 3rd district. He took ’94 off before running unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1996. It was a long 11 years before Broun became an Athens area Congressman in a special election to replace the late Charlie Norwood. Broun was in Congress from 2007 to 2014, when he ran again unsuccessfully for the US Senate. He’s now running for Congress from the third different Georgia district. For a guy who says he hates Washington, he sure does seem to spend a lot of time trying to get there.
But being a “career politician” alone is not what Broun should be judged on in his political life. It’s how he spent his tax dollars. OUR tax dollars. The ones he loves to say he’s saving us by voting against everything. But there are dollars that Broun has discretion over without needing to get a majority of votes from his house, concurrence from the Senate, and a Presidential signature. That’s his office budget. How has his stewardship been of those? In summary, he started out by tanking his budget for campaign related franking and ended his career under a still-open ethics and Department of Justice investigation that has already resulted in one guilty plea.
What’s that you say? I say it’s a pattern. A pattern of using tax dollars to secure a $174,000 salary that yielded the fruit of a guilty plea. One, so far.
It began with Congressman Broun defeating former State Senator Jim Whitehead in a race that he wasn’t supposed to win. Whitehead was an overwhelming favorite going into the runoff, but managed to turn uber-progressive Athens/Clark County into a bastion of Paul Broun protest voters. With roughly a year before his re-election primary, Broun had difficulty raising money from traditional GOP sources and had to rely on a shoestring budget for his re-elect. What’s a poor Congressman to do? Well….franking is free. For Broun anyway, not the taxpayer.
During Congressman Broun’s first year in office, he spent more than $550,000 on printing and postage from his official Congressional Budget, per Roll Call.
According to quarterly disbursement records released this week by the Clerk of the House, Broun’s office spent $1.139 million through the end of June.
The Georgia lawmaker’s office received a $1.389 million budget for 2008, which leaves it with only $242,399 for operations through December.
While spending records for Broun’s office show staff salaries alone cost $190,000 in the second quarter, the bulk of the Georgian’s bills are related to constituent mail.
In the second quarter, House records show the office spent $242,488 on franked letters in addition another $308,917 on printing and advertising.
In a statement Broun acknowledged his office faces a “shortfall” but defended his prodigious mailing, which occurred as he faced a re-election challenge.
So what does spending more than a half million dollars of taxpayer money on mail between January and April leading into a primary mean? It means that Broun’s staff had to be farmed out to other Congressmen later that year because he had overspent what was allowed. By MID YEAR. From the same Roll Call article:
Each House Member is provided with an annual base budget of about $875,000 and receives additional funds based on the distance between the lawmaker’s district and Washington, D.C., office space rental rates in each district and an “official mail” allowance determined by variables including residential addresses and postage rates.
According to the House disbursement records, each office received at least $1.1 million in 2008 for their Members’ representational allowances, with many budgets, including Broun’s, listed between $1.3 million and $1.4 million.
While it is not unheard of for Members to exceed their budgets — Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) paid $23,000 to the Treasury after overspending his office allowance in the 2004 — it is unusual for an office to do so midyear, according to the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, which monitors account balances for each office.
Broun’s staff was being paid just under $200,000 per quarter. He spent almost two and a half times that on mail. For the last six months of the year he had $242,399 to spend. That left roughly $137,601 of staff expenses that had to be covered by the budgets of others. And that’s only if staff was his only office expense. No rent, no travel, no nothing. And still not enough to cover salaries. Remember this next time Broun lectures anyone on “fiscal responsibility”. But hey, at least he got re-elected.
That was unseemly. Maybe even unethical. But it was just a warm up to the eventual illegal. That occurred when Broun decided that it was time to use his “no” vote over in the Senate. And on that we have an unfinished House ethics investigation, and an apparently ongoing Department of Justice Investigation that has yielded one guilty plea. That matter deserves it’s own, stand alone post. Maybe more than one. But before we move on, let’s sum up where we are thus far:
- Paul Broun is, in fact, a career politician.
- Paul Broun did, in fact, use more than 1/3 of his total annual office budget to send mail over less than four months leading up to his primary.
- Combining one and two, Paul Broun established a pattern once elected of using your tax dollars to keep himself in Washington. This point is essential as we move on to the next chapter.
Chew on this fruit, and then we’ll look further up this tree.