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Rep. Broun campaign loans questioned

Posted: April 13, 2012 - 9:53am
Rep. Paul Broun  Morris News Service
Morris News Service
Rep. Paul Broun

Twitter @ColumbiaCounty

A nonprofit ethics watchdog filed a complaint Thursday with the Federal Election Commission alleging that U.S. Rep. Paul Broun illegally concealed the source of loans to his campaign.

The Republican congressman whose district represents much of the Augusta region, including Columbia County, loaned his campaign, the Paul Broun Committee, $304,000 in 2007 and 2008. The committee has paid him $29,756 in interest on the loans, according to FEC records.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which released a report last month detailing questionable campaign and office spending by more than 200 congressmen, filed the FEC complaint after Broun told the Athens Banner-Herald newspaper the loans came from a bank, and he used the interest payments from his campaign to pay the bank’s interest.

Broun’s campaign said in FEC filings that the loans came from the congressman’s own pocket. If the money did come from bank loans, he broke the law by not reporting the bank’s name and what he used as collateral, according to CREW.

CREW called for a full audit of Broun’s campaign finances, including looking into whether the loan came from a Carrollton bank that Broun co-owned and his brother ran that failed in 2010.

If so, the loan could constitute bank fraud or an illegal campaign contribution, CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said.

“This could bring up a host of legal issues,” she said. “We just don’t know what they are yet.”

Tim Echols, Broun’s campaign treasurer at the time, said he outsourced the FEC filings and can’t remember where the loan came from. Broun’s press secretary did not respond to requests for comment.

CREW is also considering filing a complaint with the House Ethics Committee because Broun didn’t report the loan on his personal financial disclosure, Sloan said.

Broun spoke to the University of Georgia College Republicans on Wednesday night, but didn’t address the CREW allegations. In his talk, he called this year’s election the most important one of students’ lifetimes because President Obama is “trying to destroy the free enterprise system.”

“I believe if Barack Obama is re-elected, I’m not sure this country can survive financially,” he said. “We’re headed for an economic collapse because we’re spending money we don’t have.”

Broun accused Obama of running “a campaign of fear and division” because he wants to end President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy and backs the “Buffett rule” that would force investors to pay the same tax rates as those who earn their incomes by working.

“What he wants to do is put taxes on job creators,” Broun said.

He said he wants to get rid of the U.S. departments of education and energy and the Federal Reserve, return money to the gold standard, eliminate taxes on corporate profits and capital gains, and open up both onshore and offshore oil and natural gas reserves for drilling.

Broun also spoke about the 2009 health care reform law, calling it a threat to liberty.

If Republicans don’t repeal it or the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t strike it down — Broun said he’s confident it will be ruled unconstitutional — Democrats could force people to join gyms and drive electric cars and ban unhealthy foods like soda and cheese dip, he said.

“If Paul Broun believes that Obamacare will force people to drive an electric car, I suggest he read the bill again,” Democratic Party of Georgia spokesman Eric Gray said. “That’s the most dim-witted thing he has ever said.”

Broun has introduced his own health care reform plan that would turn Medicare into a voucher system, give doctors tax credits for treating indigent patients, expand health savings accounts and allow hospitals to turn non-emergency patients away from emergency rooms.

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