by: Justin Gray Updated:
WASHINGTON - He's a candidate for the U.S. Senate and a Georgia congressman who has built his reputation by trying to reign in government spending.
But it's how Rep. Paul Broun is spending taxpayer money in his own office that got the attention of Channel 2’s Justin Gray.
Members of Congress have to report every dime their office spends.
Gray noticed that Broun paid more than $33,000 in taxpayer money to someone who advertises themselves as a campaign/debate coach.
When Gray went to Broun’s office to talk about the expenses, Broun shut the door in his face.
Broun is running for U.S. Senate and is spending your tax dollars. Specifically, Gray has learned Broun has been giving monthly payments to a company called O'Donnell and Associates.
O’Donnell and Associates advertises on its own website that it specializes in campaign communications and campaign debate preparation.
Gray looked deeper and discovered Broun has paid the self-described campaign consultant more than $33,000 from his office budget the past two years. The money is taxpayer dollars.
“If somebody is advertising themselves as a campaign consultant, what are they doing on the taxpayer dime?” asked Kathy Keily with the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit agency aimed at creating greater government openness and transparency.
Gray wanted to ask Broun about the expenses, but his office didn't return his calls or emails.
Gray went to a hearing of a House science subcommittee which Broun serves on, but he was a no-show. Gray finally tracked Broun down after a vote.
“Can we ask you why you're spending all this money on a debate coach?” Gray asked Broun.
“I’m sorry, I don't have time to talk,” Broun said, heading into his office.
“Can't we talk to you for just one minute please sir?” Gray asked as Broun shut the door.
Broun's office later sent us Gray a statement identifying O'Donnell as a contract member of his staff, saying,
“He provides training with public speaking, on-camera interviews, and media appearances so that Dr. Broun can best communicate his legislative priorities, issues, and message with his constituents.”
“These lawmakers can raise plenty of money to fund their campaigns. They really don't need the taxpayers to chip in as well,” Keily said.
On his official disbursements Broun identifies the purpose of the O’Donnell and Associates spending as training.