Judging Paul Broun By His Fruits: Part 2

Last week, we started peeling back the layers of the self-propelled myth that Paul Broun is in politics because he is in selfless pursuit of a constitutional nation.  We’re using Matthew 7 to Judge career politician Broun on the fruits his political career has harvested.

Thus far, the bushel basket contains the fact that he significantly overspent his office budget carpet bombing his constituents with taxpayer funded mail leading up to his first re-election.  That’s not exactly the record of someone that is a taxpayer champion.  I’m sure going hat in hand to John Boehner to get a bailout and figure out who was going to pay his office staff during the last months of the year fits in Broun’s four part test somehow.

As we said last week that was unseemly, and maybe even unethical. But what happens next in this story was illegal. There’s a guilty plea to prove it.  Or at least, some of it. 

After that initial unpleasantness Broun didn’t have too much difficulty getting re-elected.  He was content to vote “no” on everything without ever really accomplishing anything.  Not a terribly stressful way to earn $174,000 per year plus congressional benefits.  But then some consultants started whispering in Broun’s ear that he was ready to be a U.S. Senator.  Then he would only have to run every six years to vote no on everything and collect $174,000 per year plus congressional benefits.  Apparently that sounded pretty good.  Broun decided that it was time to move on up.

The problem is, a Congressman without a record of accomplishing anything other than calling evolution “lies from the pit of hell” isn’t able to raise money from a very wide circle of donors.  But there is, of course, that office budget that taxpayers give each Congressmen.  So what happens when campaign coffers run dry?  Well, according to the guilty plea of one of Broun’s former staffers, it appears campaign services were moved to the official payroll of Broun’s taxpayer funded House office account – the same one he used to excessively frank the district earlier.

Brett O’Donnell is a communications consultant and works with political candidates on “public speaking, debate performances, messaging, interactions with media, and communication strategies.  In mid 2012, O’Donnell was hired by the office of Paul Broun to help the Congressman get better at saying “I’m opposed to that” in public. Over the next two years the taxpayers paid Mr. O’Donnell $43,000 for his services.

The problem is that it is expressly illegal to fund campaign expenses using taxpayer funds.  Mr. O’Donnell was paid to work in an official capacity for the Congressional office, but then was to “volunteer” for Broun’s campaign.  Mr. O’Donnell has pled guilty to lying to the Office of Congressional Ethics. His plea is here.  Read it all.

It is essentially a contradiction to what Broun claimed to WSB TV’s Justin Gray:

The contradiction, specifically, is that O’Donnell’s activities were not just to support official business.  Section 27 of the above linked plea agreement outlines that O’Donnell had, on at least two occasions, raised concerns to Broun’s Chief of Staff David Bowser that he was doing work for the campaign but being compensated by the taxpayer funded official account.

Broun left office before the Office of Congressional Ethics could finish its investigation.  Should he return to Congress, they would once again have jurisdiction.  But the charges – and apparent conspiracy to cover up the illegal activities – have also raised concerns at the Justice Department. While the DOJ doesn’t usually comment, it appears the case is still open.

At a minimum, we have a pattern established that Broun has used his Congressional office account for excessive franking of his district, and one guilty plea that indicates a campaign consultant was paid using taxpayer funds.  That’s a pattern.

But what else is there in this unfinished investigation?  We’ll take that up next week in Part III.

 

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