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Former Georgia congressman free from House ethics case
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With a new Congress taking office last week, former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., left Washington without having to answer charges that he misused government money to help his failed Senate candidacy.

Congressional investigators in October issued a report that found substantial evidence that Broun used his congressional account to hire an outside political consultant in violation of House rules and federal laws prohibiting public spending for political purposes. The Office of Congressional Ethics board voted unanimously to recommend further investigation by the House Ethics Committee, which could have sanctioned Broun and ordered him to repay the money alleged to have been misused.

But with the new Congress in place and Broun back in Georgia looking for his next job, the House’s jurisdiction has expired because he is no longer in office. The Justice Department could still pursue the case as a criminal matter.

Broun, elected to the House in 2007, maintains he did nothing wrong and hopes the unresolved ethics case will not tarnish his legacy in Congress.

“Everything I did was completely moral, ethical and legal,” Broun said in an interview. “If it had been taken to its full course I would have been exonerated.”

The Office of Congressional Ethics report released in October found evidence that contradicts Broun’s claims. House members are prohibited from using their congressional office funds for political purposes or to hire outside consultants. The report detailed how Broun paid $43,750 in government money to Republican consultant and debate coach Brett O’Donnell over nearly two years beginning in June 2012.

Some payments to O’Donnell were made as Broun’s Senate campaign struggled to raise money. Broun may have turned to the office fund funds to hire O’Donnell’s because his campaign could not afford him, the report found.

Broun said he plans to continue to fight for conservative principles. He said he is weighing several options for his post-congressional life, but would not provide additional details.

He said people have encouraged him to run again for the U.S. Senate or House or even consider running for state office in Georgia. Broun said he is not running for office, but he also talks like someone who hasn’t ruled out another run. He was critical of new Sen. David Perdue for supporting Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell for Senate majority leader. Broun said he recognizes the unresolved ethics case could possibly come up if he ran for office again.

“I’m just moving forward,” he said. “I did not misuse taxpayer funds.”

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