The Republican congresswoman from Western Colorado was already subject to intense scrutiny for charging her campaign outlandish amounts of money for mileage reimbursements, initially claiming enough campaign cash to total approximately 39,000 miles in gasoline usage. For context, that would have had her driving a distance further than the circumference of the Earth over the course of about 8 months.
Around the same time, Boebert paid off liens Garfield County levied on her restaurant, Shooters Grill, for nonpayment of unemployment premiums. Her mileage reimbursement was roughly $21,000, suspiciously close to the $19,000 she eventually paid the county to settle her debts. So, even before the last few weeks, Boebert had, at best, questionable bookkeeping practices.
That brings us to the two new financial imbroglios currently subsuming Boebert-land. Let’s start with the first and simplest to explain. Boebert received a letter from the Federal Election Commission alleging three violations of campaign finance law: accepting at least a dozen contributions over the legal limit, “apparent personal use of campaign funds” to the tune of $6,650, and not being able to perform basic math.
To be certain, any one of these violations raises serious questions, but her other financial scandal is even more concerning. Boebert neglected to tell the voters in her district that her husband made nearly $1 million in two years “consulting” for one specific oil and gas company, Terra Energy Partners, which has a large, active drilling presence in the district she now represents.
Headlines like “Boebert pushed to loosen drilling rules. She failed to disclose her husband’s income from energy consulting” and “Lauren Boebert may have violated federal disclosure laws” followed Boebert’s quietly filing paperwork disclosing that her husband made $478,000 in 2020 and $460,000 in 2019 consulting for Terra. Interestingly, those were the same years she was using Garfield County’s coffers as a personal low-interest loan by refusing to pay what she owed in unemployment insurance for her employees. You wouldn’t think a family making a half-million dollars a year would have trouble paying off a $20,000 lien.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Boebert brought a bill earlier this year, (one of her few with any substance whatsoever) which would prohibit the president of the United States from enacting drilling restrictions on public lands. Terra Energy Partners just happens to operate dozens of profitable, active wells on public lands in Colorado.
What’s next? Will Boebert try to mandate that Shooters Grill become the official concession vendor for all National Parks? At least then, the restaurant might stand a chance of netting a profit. Now would be a good time to note that public disclosures show that Boebert’s restaurant was bleeding money over the past two years, clocking losses of $143,000 in 2019 and $226,000 in 2020. What’s that common conservative claim about how electing businesspeople is inherently a good idea?
Western Slope grassroots group Rural Colorado United, led by Pueblo’s former state Rep. Bri Buentello, sent a letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics this week demanding an investigation into Boebert’s creative accounting practices and requesting that she release her tax returns. They cite a federal criminal bribery statute and a rule in the U.S. House of Representatives that prohibits members from receiving “compensation to accrue to the beneficial interest of [a member] from any source, the receipt of which would occur by virtue of influence improperly exerted from the position of such individual in Congress.”
In other words, it seems as if the good people of Colorado’s Third Congressional District are finally fed up with Boebert’s shady dealings, and want an investigation to see truly how far up the river their congresswoman may have sold them to line her own pockets.
Boebert seems to be following a similar playbook from the leader of her party and its ideological center of gravity, former President Donald Trump, who regularly made hair-raising self-dealing moves using his office. Trump did this stuff all the time and has yet to be truly held accountable, so Boebert probably figures she can get away with it, too. Fortunately, there are good people in the 3rd Congressional District who are paying attention.
Perhaps there’s an innocent explanation for everything, but the best defense I can imagine is that a member of Congress is forgetting which stack of money needed to be disclosed on mandatory federal disclosures. As my very own favorite journalist, the late Hunter S. Thompson wrote, “In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.”
Ian Silverii is the founder of The Bighorn Company, a dad, a husband, and the former director of ProgressNow Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @iansilverii.
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