By Sean Cockerham
McClatchy Washington Bureau (MCT)
WASHINGTON – The House Ethics Committee is investigating whether Republican Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia broke the law by using official congressional office funds to pay for communications help in his political campaigns.
The committee made public the details of the Broun investigation on Wednesday. The committee said it launched the probe at the request of the Office of Congressional Ethics, which found “substantial reason to believe” that Broun violated House ethics rules, as well as federal law.
Broun allegedly used his official Congressional allowance to pay O’Donnell & Associates for communications advice that included help with his campaigns. The communications firm is run by Republican consultant and debate coach Brett O’Donnell, the former chief strategist for Michelle Bachmann’s failed 2012 presidential campaign Broun’s office paid O’Donnell’s firm $43,750 between June 2012 and March 2014, according to the allegations described in the Office of Congressional Ethics report.
The congressional office funds aren’t supposed to be used for communications consultants or for political campaigns. Broun said in a written statement Wednesday that he is “fully cooperating with the House Ethics Committee. I am confident that I acted in compliance with all House rules, and I look forward to a favorable resolution of this matter.” The committee said Wednesday that the charge was first referred to its attention on July 31, but that it needs additional time to investigate.
The fact of the ongoing investigation “does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee,” said the joint statement from the chairman and ranking member, Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., respectively.
Broun, a Republican, represents Georgia’s 10th Congressional district, which starts just north of the Macon area and covers a swath of central and eastern Georgia. He has made controversial statements during his time in Congress, including a 2012 assertion that evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell.”
In May, Broun lost the Georgia primary election for the U.S. Senate seat that came open with the retirement of Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss. The loss means the congressman will be leaving Congress at the end of this year.
(c)2014 McClatchy Washington Bureau