Tea party stalwart Paul Broun has a message for Republicans who buck Rep. Paul D. Ryan’s seemingly inevitable speakership: Keep fightin’ the good fight.
The former House member left Congress under an ethics cloud at the end of the 113th Congress, heading home to Georgia to resume his medical practice. But he’s re-emerged during the speaker race, petitioning to “Fire Kevin McCarthy,” then circulating a “Fire Paul Ryan” pledge. “I applaud the fact that they have not bowed under pressure from the establishment,” Broun told HOH on Oct. 22, a day after Ryan fell a few votes short of a formal House Freedom Caucus endorsement. Broun encouraged all members to “vote for a speaker who’s going to put us back on the right course.”
“I don’t believe Paul Ryan will do that,” Broun said.
Elected to Congress in July 2007, Broun earned a reputation as a bomb-thrower with contentious rhetoric on immigrants and the Affordable Care Act. “We need a speaker of the House leadership that [is] going to stand up to Barack Obama and stop this radical agenda that’s destroying America,” he said. Broun says Ryan can’t do the job, but he later added that he liked the Wisconsin Republican as “a friend.”
During his time in the House, Broun’s bombastic messaging strategy got him into trouble with ethics investigators. The House Ethics Committee was reviewing allegations that he paid GOP communications consultant Brett O’Donnell more than $43,000 in taxpayer dollars, when Broun quit Congress in 2014. The Justice Department has picked up the case.
“I’ve cooperated with the DOJ as they’ve been looking into things, completely cooperated with them,” Broun said, when asked why he’s throwing himself back into the political arena with the Constitutional Rights PAC’s campaign rather than trying to lay low.
From February 2013, when Broun launched his unsuccussful bid for retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ seat, to March 2014, Broun’s office paid $2,500 per month to O’Donnell. In September, the man known in political circles as a tea party “whisperer ” pleaded guilty to making false statements to the Office of Congressional Ethics about his arrangement with Broun.
“I know I’ve done nothing wrong,” Broun said. The investigation is nothing to be ashamed of or hide from, he said, “because I’m certain I’m going to be completely exonerated.”
But Broun was cagey when asked if he plans to make another bid for Congress.
He railed against big government spending and the nation’s debt and promised, “I’ll do everything I can to stop it whether I’m in Congress or outside it.”
Broun got his first exposure to politics at 16, when his father won a seat in the Georgia Senate. Broun first ran for the House in 1990 and 1992, and made a bid for the Senate in 1996.
Eventually, Broun told HOH, “I don’t have plans to run for office again at this moment.”
In July, the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe by a Minnesota dentist led HOH to revisit Broun’s days in Congress. Broun, who volunteered as a lobbyist for the Safari Club International before running for office, sounded off about the international outcry surrounding the incident.
“I don’t know the details, and I don’t think the press knows the details of what that’s all about,” Brown said. He thinks it was a shame that animal rights activists utilized Cecil’s killing to promote a “radical agenda.”
Broun supports the theory that trophy hunting reaps financial rewards for the local population who protects the animals, and boosts local economies. He advocates for wildlife conservation, and protecting hunters’ rights.
The American Wildlife Foundation lists the big cats as “vulnerable,” but Broun has a different opinion.
“Lions are not endangered at all,” he said.
See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call’s new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.