As Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, the grassroots organizing group Rural Colorado United is pressing the case against freshman GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert, filing a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics following up on their call for Boebert to release her tax returns–all in response to Rep. Boebert’s still-mysterious disclosure last week of almost $1 million allegedly paid to the Boebert family’s sole proprietorship by Terra Energy Partners in 2019 and 2020:
Former state Rep. Bri Buentello, D-Pueblo, a persistent Boebert critic, alleges in the complaint that the payments — first revealed in a personal financial disclosure form filed last week by Boebert — could run afoul of federal bribery statutes and a House rule that forbids influence trading, pointing to legislation Boebert has introduced this year to boost the oil and gas industry, a major economic driver in her district…
Buentello alleges in her complaint that the large payments are “inconsistent with Mr. Boebert’s qualifications relative to that level of compensation,” citing employment compensation data that show oil and gas workers in similar positions typically make $41,000-$84,000, with top earners pulling in $174,000 annually. She also notes that Jayson Boebert’s compensation went up from 2019 to 2020, despite a pronounced nationwide slump in drilling activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The disproportionate size and belated disclosure of this compensation raises questions about when these funds were actually paid to Jayson Boebert, and whether this compensation was made in exchange for actions taken by Rep. Lauren Boebert since being sworn into Congress in January,” Buentello wrote. [Pols emphasis]
In other words, bribery.
With respect to the continuing questions about disclosure requirements, it’s possible that Boebert’s staff made an error in disclosing the amounts allegedly paid by Terra Energy Partners to the Boebert family LLC–although this is disputed by at least one experienced ethics attorney, who has examined the case and contends that the joint nature of that LLC obligated Boebert to disclose years before she did:
“The disclosure laws require lawmakers to reveal the source of all earned income, ownership interests, and certain affiliations with LLCs. Rep. Boebert’s reports raise red flags regarding her compliance with the law,” [senior counsel and director of ethics for the Campaign Legal Center Kedric] Payne said.
But disclosure is not the main focus of Rural Colorado United’s complaint. As serious a matter as failing to disclose a blatant conflict of interest may be, if this questionably large sum of money was paid after Lauren Boebert was elected to Congress and falsely attested in whole or part to be income from before she was elected to Congress, a much more straightforward crime has been committed.
There’s plenty here for the Ethics Committee to ponder, though we could see a prosecutor getting there first.
The one thing that’s increasingly clear is that this newest scandal, which sprang to life one week ago on the heels of a separate investigation into thousands of dollars in “mistaken” personal charges to Boebert’s campaign account, is not going away. For a political neophyte who carved out a precarious niche by outraging her way into the headlines, these are the wrong kinds of headlines.