Congressional Republicans flout campaign finance rules; Boebert hides husband’s energy consulting income
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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) withheld his support for the Republican’s 2017 tax cuts, demanding that the bill grant larger tax breaks for pass-through companies in exchange for his vote. The Republican caucus and Trump administration granted his wish, creating a tax break that saves some of Johnson’s biggest supporters hundreds of millions of dollars.
Dick and Liz Uihlein of packaging giant Uline, along with roofing magnate Diane Hendricks, together had contributed around $20 million to groups backing Johnson’s 2016 reelection campaign. The expanded tax break Johnson muscled through netted them $215 million in deductions in 2018 alone, drastically reducing the income they owed taxes on. At that rate, the cut could deliver more than half a billion in tax savings for Hendricks and the Uihleins over its eight-year life.
West Virginia Republican Rep. Alex Mooney spent thousands of campaign dollars on personal expenses and didn’t report more than $40,000 in expenditures. The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) revealed in a report last week that Mooney used financed meals at restaurants like Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell and Wingstop, as well as family vacations to resorts outside his district. The OCE panel voted unanimously to refer the matter to the House Ethics Committee to determine if fines or sanctions are in order.
“The evidence suggests that the trip to Canaan Valley Resort is most appropriately characterized as a multi-night, resort holiday vacation for Rep. Mooney and his family, paid for with campaign funds, that he unsuccessfully attempted to characterize as an official site visit during his interview,” the OCE said.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, Republican from Colorado’s 3rd District, failed to properly disclose her husband’s energy consulting income. Her husband, Jayson Boebert, made $938,987 in 2018-2019 providing “consulting services” to Terra Energy Productions, but the Congresswoman did not disclose the income until last month.
The new information is particularly pertinent considering Boebert gained a seat on the House Natural Resources Committee before revealing her family’s interest in a company the Committee is responsible for monitoring. In fact, Boebert introduced a bill in February seeking to limit Biden’s ability to move the U.S. away from fossil fuel dependency.
Boebert is also under fire from the FEC for using campaign dollars to fund personal expenses. Between May and June, Boebert’s campaign disclosed four Venmo payments totalling more than $6,000. Ben Stout, her communications director, later admitted the charges were personal expenses “billed to the campaign account in error.”
During her short time in office, Boebert has managed to incur numerous other campaign finance violations and mysteries. For instance, earlier this year Boebert’s campaign reimbursed her $22,259 for alleged mileage driven during her campaign, amounting to an incredible 38,712 miles. After media questions, she amended her financial report to note that the figure included hotel stays and other travel expenses.
Hoeven’s conflict of interest
Watchdog group CREW identified a critical conflict of interest between Sen. John Hoeven (R-CO) and a bank he partly owns, called First Western Bank and Trust. Hoeven also serves on the board of the bank, attended lobbying meetings with the CEO, and employs a lobbyist for interests that intersect with those of First Western.
CREW: Hoeven is the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies, which oversees the USDA’s budget and has jurisdiction over agricultural banking issues. In that capacity, he has been a persistent advocate for FSA lending… Beyond the conflict of interest, Hoeven’s board membership with the bank raises a legal question. Senate rules generally bar senators from serving on corporate boards.
Earlier this year, the North Dakota Senate passed a bill to bail out three banks – including First Western – with $8 million of taxpayer money. The House, however, managed to cut the bank bailout from the final bill after the Associated Press publicized the connection to Hoeven.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) collected over $280,000 from 37 current and former lawmakers for his legal defense amidst an insider trading investigation. Just days before the coronavirus crashed the market in early 2020, Burr sold up to $1.7 million in stocks in a highly unusual pattern. The majority of donors to his defense fund were Republicans, including Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY), Lindsey Graham (SC), Susan Collins (ME), and former House Speaker John Boehner.
- Related: “Pharma Lobbyist, Billionaire Donate To Defense Fund For Senator Richard Burr,” Forbes
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) failed to disclose royalties from his book deal, finally doing so after media inquiries. His book, Firebrand, made Gaetz just $25,000.
Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) was fined $5,000 last week for evading the metal detector leading onto the House chamber floor. According to the Sergeant at Arms (PDF), Huizenga “bypassed screening via [the] Republican cloakroom” on Aug. 23 and was advised by a Capitol officer that he must pass through the metal detector. Huizenga refused, stating that “he is just dropping off some paperwork.” He has 30 days to appeal the fine.
Less than a week after the attack on the Capitol, Huizenga set off the metal detector and refused to stop, later saying the screening is “insulting” and unconstitutional.
Another former staffer of Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) has come forward to accuse the lawmaker of disregarding Covid-19 safety measures and firing those who brought up concerns. Brandon Pope, a military adviser to Lamborn until December 2020, sued his former boss for wrongful reprisal in violation of the Congressional Accountability Act (PDF). Pope claimed he was terminated in retaliation for raising safety concerns in an office where many contracted the coronavirus:
Representative Lamborn had a reckless and dangerous approach to COVID19, and he retaliated against Mr. Pope for seeking to protect employees from unsafe conditions in the workplace. In the workplace, Lamborn did not require employees in the District Office to wear masks, claiming that he would not allow House Leadership to dictate how he ran his office, and he did not permit all employees to social distance. Worse, when Lamborn and other senior members of his staff became infected with COVID-19 in the fall of 2020, Lamborn refused to implement or follow reasonable and responsible COVID-19 protocols, resulting in the widespread transmission of the virus throughout both the District and Washington, D.C. Offices.
Pope’s former boss, Joshua Hosler, submitted sworn statements last month backing up Pope’s version of events:
As Pope voiced his concerns, Hosler said Anderson — who has not responded to multiple requests for comment — began to call the staffer “abrasive” and “belligerent,” and accused him of having an “attitude problem.”
…after multiple people tested positive in October, Hosler said Anderson sent staff members home and told them not to tell anybody — including family members, friends or roommates — that they had been in contact with people who had contracted the virus…
“Because Mr. Pope had been a great employee, I believe that Representative Lamborn and Chief of Staff Anderson terminated Mr. Pope because he opposed the Office’s reckless approach to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Office’s refusal to implement common-sense safety precautions,” Hosler said in the court documents.