A nonpartisan ethics watchdog group, Accountable.US, submitted a formal request to the Office of Congressional Ethics on Thursday asking for an investigation into what it called “exorbitant” mileage disbursements to Rep. Lauren Boebert from her campaign.
Boebert’s campaign finances came under scrutiny this week when The Denver Post reported on reimbursements she made to herself, first cited by Colorado Pols, to cover certain travel costs when she was a candidate.
“Rep. Boebert’s curious campaign travel expenses warrant an immediate investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics,” wrote Accountable.US president Kyle Herrig in a letter to OCE Chair David Skaggs. “She has refused to provide exculpatory evidence to the public, so it is critical she is held to account for this potential abuse of campaign funds.”
The OCE, which didn’t respond to a request for comment, observes strict rules regarding confidentiality and “does not make public statements identifying the subjects of its ongoing investigations,” according to its website. If the OCE takes up an investigation, it can recommend dismissal or further review to the House Committee on Ethics, which can then decide whether to pursue an investigation, impose sanctions or dismiss the case.
Boebert’s campaign finance disclosures to the Federal Election Commission indicate she claimed “mileage” reimbursements of $1,059.62, reported on March 31, and $21,199.52, reported on Nov. 11. According to a Denver Post analysis of Boebert’s campaign events listed on her Facebook page, the then-candidate would have had to travel only about 17,600 miles during her campaign — far less than the nearly 39,000 miles indicated by her reimbursements, based on the Internal Revenue Service’s standard mileage rate of 57.5 cents per mile. In a statement provided to the Post, Boebert’s campaign said that the publicly-listed events were only a “small sampling” of her schedule.
“She traveled to every nook and cranny of the district to speak with and hear from the people about their concerns,” Boebert’s campaign told the Post. “Her aggressive travel schedule is a big reason she won.”
“I think the mileage reimbursements are incredibly suspicious,” Bryson Morgan, an attorney and former investigator for the House Office of Congressional Ethics, told Newsline in an interview. “They’re unusually high, especially given the pandemic, which at least in theory would cut down on the number of in-person events that a candidate is doing. But even regardless of that, I think they’re high.”
Morgan said that congressional ethics rules require candidates to maintain documentation demonstrating that reported expenditures were campaign-related, and that the sheer amount of Boebert’s Nov. 11 reimbursement alone could attract scrutiny from House ethics watchdogs.
“It’s precisely the type of thing that would raise red flags among ethics investigators in the House,” he said. “She could potentially have a problem even if she just does not have proper documentation to demonstrate that the reimbursements were permissible.”