Feb. 14, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

A Few Members Show a Big Shift in Bottom Line

In a report issued in May, the IG inspector determined that Shuler did not use his status on the committee to pressure the TVA for the land swap but concluded that Shuler’s role in the real estate project did contribute to the appearance of preferential treatment.

“The appearance of preferential treatment was exacerbated by Shuler’s representatives dropping Shuler’s name with TVA employees,” the report stated.

A supplemental IG report obtained by the News Sentinel last week through a Freedom of Information Act request indicated, however, that a then-TVA employee provided false information during the investigation about whether he knew of Shuler’s involvement in the real estate company.

“Rep. Shuler stands by his previous position that he has never used or intended to use his position in the U.S. House of Representatives to improperly influence anyone for personal gain,” Abrams said in a statement. “He has cooperated fully with the Office of Inspector General during its thorough investigation. ... If any future investigations arise on this matter, Rep. Shuler will continue to cooperate fully.”

According to the IG’s initial report, the investigation also referred an unspecified matter to the House ethics committee.

“The TVA OIG has no jurisdiction over the conduct of a United States Congressman and we make no judgment as to whether Congressman Shuler’s actions connected to the Blackberry Cove matter violate any existing ethical standard,” the report states.

Abrams said Shuler’s office has not been contacted by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, as the ethics committee is commonly known.

The ethics committee rarely comments publicly on its activities and does not confirm or deny potential investigations.

In addition to the consolidation of his real estate holdings, Abrams noted that Shuler sold another asset, the Fountain Square Shopping Center, in a transaction valued at $1 million to $5 million and “used the proceeds to pay down debt.” The property had previously been listed in two parts — including a trust owned by a dependent child — with a combined minimum value of $1.5 million.

Shuler reported $1.55 million in debts in 2007, including a mortgage of at least $1 million. In 2008, he reported two commercial lines of credit, valued at a combined minimum of $150,000.

In Shelby’s case, the Senator listed assets worth a minimum of $9.89 million in 2007, the largest portion being an apartment complex worth $5 million to $25 million. But in 2008, that asset is listed as being worth $100,000 to $500,000.

Shelby’s office explained that the Senator transferred 49 percent of his shares in the building to a family trust benefiting his children in 2007 and 2008, leaving the Senator with only a 2 percent stake in the building. The value he has listed for the asset is based on the assumption that the building has a total value of $5 million to $25 million. Shelby’s original financial disclosure report for 2008 — filed in May — did not mention the apartment building at all; he filed an amendment in August to reflect his remaining shares.

With the apartment building gone, the minimum net worth of the Senator’s assets drops to $4.5 million, and he drops from the top 50 in Congressional wealth.

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