Thursday, August 27, 2009

CREW Files Ethics Complaint Against Rep. Deal

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Yesterday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics against Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) for violating House rules and federal law by intervening with Georgia political leaders to preserve a program that financially benefits him.

This past weekend, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Rep. Deal, along with his business partner Ken Cronan, owns a lucrative business, Recovery Services, Inc., that – through a no-bid contract – provides inspection stations to the state for the inspection of salvaged vehicles. The business earned $1.4 million between 2004-2008 and Rep. Deal personally took home $150,000 a year.

In 2008, Georgia Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham took over responsibility for the inspection system and found the operational costs and locations of the inspection stations to be too costly and restrictive for the state of Georgia and its residents. Comm. Graham decided the best course of action was to reform the system and award contracts through a competitive bidding process.

Rep. Deal and his staff, with assistance from Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, then arranged meetings with Comm. Graham at which Rep. Deal and his chief of staff were present, to persuade him to reconsider his decisions, including the proposed elimination of $1.7 million that has been allocated for the program. After Comm. Graham’s plan was passed by the Georgia House, Rep. Deal’s chief of staff used his House email to contact Georgia state officials to ensure the state Senate did not pass the cut in the program. The money for the program was eventually kept in the budget.

Rep. Deal may have committed a federal crime by using his position and congressional resources to engage in self-dealing, thereby depriving his constituents of his honest services. By using congressional resources, including House computers and staff time to pursue his business interests, he violated the federal law and House ethics rule requiring taxpayer funds be applied only to official business. By using his position to force Comm. Graham to meet with him and his chief of staff to discuss his personal business, and by contacting other Georgia politicians to influence a vote on a state budget matter, Rep. Deal violated the House rule prohibiting members from using their positions to obtain financial benefit. Finally, Rep. Deal’s course of conduct violates the House rule requiring members to act in a manner that reflects creditably on the House.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said, “Astonishingly, Rep. Deal seems to believe he has the right to use his position as a member of Congress to ensure no one -- not even a Georgia official -- interferes with his sweetheart deal with the state of Georgia. The Office of Congressional Ethics and perhaps the Department of Justice should be able to teach Rep. Deal a valuable lesson: public service is not intended as a path to self-enrichment.”

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