Paul Broun's 2016 Run Could Reignite Ethics Charge

If Broun returns to Congress, the Ethics Committee might take notice of past allegations. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Former Rep. Paul Broun announced he's running for Congress in Georgia's 9th District, and he faces not just a primary against an incumbent fellow Republican but the haze of an ethics investigation dating back to his last term in the House.  

"Many might think I'm crazy to run for Congress again, but I am running because our nation deserves better than our current leaders. I've been a proven constitutional conservative fighter before, and I'll do it again if I have your support today!" Broun said in a statement announcing his candidacy that doubled as a fundraising plea. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., won the 10th District seat that Broun vacated, which is in north-Central Georgia and includes Milledgeville, the home of the late Southern Gothic writer Flannery O'Connor. GOP Rep. Doug Collins represents the neighboring 9th District, which hugs the northern Georgia coastline and borders South Carolina on the eastern part of the state. Collins is running for re-election.  

Broun, first elected in 2007 in a special election to replace the late Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., ran for the Senate in 2014 but lost in the primary. At the time of his departure from Congress, the House Ethics Committee was reviewing allegations he paid GOP communications consultant Brett O’Donnell more than $43,000 in taxpayer dollars.  

The Justice Department subsequently picked up the case. In September, O'Donnell pleaded guilty to lying about his contractual arrangement with Broun, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution . Broun has consistently denied any wrongdoing on his part. There hasn't been much activity on the part of a federal grand jury in the case since O'Donnell's plea. Requests for comment from the Justice Department were not returned.  

Typically when a member of Congress under Ethics Committee investigation leaves office, the probe ends there because the panel's jurisdiction doesn't apply anymore. But if Broun were to return to Congress, it could present the committee with the opportunity to re-open its case.  

A spokesman for the Ethics Committee was not available for comment. There isn't much precedent to go on, however.  

"I cannot think of a situation where this has come up before," said Robert Walker, a former chief counsel and staff director for both the House and Senate Ethics committees who is now of counsel at Wiley Rein.  

Broun made some news in October when he re-emerged during the speaker's race. After John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, resigned, he petitioned his fellow tea party conservatives to first “Fire Kevin McCarthy,” then he circulated a “Fire Paul Ryan” pledge. McCarthy, the majority leader, withdrew from the race. Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican, was elected by his GOP peers to be the speaker.  

Contact Dick at jasondick@rollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @jasonjdick.

Paul Broun Rails Against Paul Ryan, Animal Rights Activists

Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016 Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

Topics: ga-9 house-2016 ethc