Aug. 31, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Deal Pushes Back Against Ethics Allegations

Ex-Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) denied charges that he abused his Congressional office for personal gain, according to a letter released Monday by the Office of Congressional Ethics as part of its investigation of the former lawmaker.

The OCE investigation focused on Deal’s efforts to persuade Georgia officials to preserve a state-funded auto salvage program that benefited his family’s business.

Deal, who resigned from the House on March 21 in favor of his gubernatorial campaign, denied any wrongdoing in a letter published with the report, and his attorney criticized the document as “inaccurate” in an interview Monday.

According to the 138-page OCE report, which recommended the House ethics committee conduct a further investigation, Deal sought to persuade Georgia officials to abandon a plan to expand the number of salvaged-vehicle inspection stations in the state and award contracts to those stations through a competitive bidding process.

Deal and his business partner, Ken Cronan, own and operate Recovery Services Inc., also known as Gainesville Salvage & Disposal, one of the eight existing inspection stations at the time of Deal’s alleged actions. The business no longer operates as an inspection site.

“The OCE does not take a position on Representative Deal’s motivations for inserting himself into discussion of potential modifications to a state vehicle inspection program,” the OCE report states.

“However, during operation of the previous vehicle inspection system, Representative Deal received a significant financial benefit as a GSD partner and corporate officer,” the report continues. “It is undisputed that as a ‘public servant,’ Representative Deal took active steps to preserve a purely state program, one that had generated financial benefit for Representative Deal and his business partner. Further, while taking these steps, Representative Deal used resources of the House of Representatives.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in early 2008 that Gainesville Salvage & Disposal earned $1.5 million from 2004 to 2008 from the salvage inspection program.

Deal defended his involvement, along with his chief of staff, in three meetings with Georgia state officials who proposed changes to the state inspection program, citing his “longstanding and routinely reported involvement in the salvage business.”

“Congressman Deal has become someone that Georgians, including elected and appointed government officials, would ask regarding salvage issues,” according to a “summary” that Deal submitted to the OCE.

In a letter from Deal, the Georgian also cited conflict of interest rules that allow Members to vote or contact federal agencies on issues that may affect them as “members of a class.”

“The suggestion appears to be that because I was involved in a family business in the area of salvage operations, I could not take any action in any matters involving salvage operations. This would be an overly broad and incorrect interpretation of House ethics rules,” Deal wrote.

He later cited the House ethics manual, which states: “A constituent need not be denied congressional intercession merely because a Member may stand to derive some incidental benefit along with others in the same class.”

The OCE also reported inconsistencies between Deal’s annual finance disclosure forms and his federal tax filings, and alleged that the Georgia lawmaker may have violated outside earned income limits.

On his House financial disclosures, Deal reported unearned “dividends” or “partnership income,” but he filed federal tax returns showing earned income in the same amounts.

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