Wednesday, July 30, 2008

An Enigma for a Congressman

I'm going to be honest: I don't know what to think of Paul Broun (pictured here with Coach Richt).

Like many on July 15, I was surprised by his easy defeat of Republican primary challenger Barry Fleming, despite the dirt Barry and his crew dug up on him. Surely he had a mandate, as he had run a strong, grassroots campaign. Voters clearly rejected the business-as-usual negative campaigning model employed by Fleming's team (it is curious to note that Dr. Broun's own campaign website still references Fleming's attacks).

But what should have been a triumphant month has played out like a train wreck. First, stories emerge that he has used nearly half of his office's entire budget on "franking" costs to mail flyers out to his district to "educate" voters. Based on the results of the election, it now looks like needless spend. More importantly, to many, it looks like a thinly veiled use of taxpayer dollars to campaign.

Then the AJC says in a front page story what many politically savvy observers in the district have been whispering for the past year -- that without broad agreement among all congressmen, a personal "no earmark policy" is silly, and could be disastrous for our district, especially given the University's need for federal funds for specific research activities. And even worse, Broun and his co-horts are apparently asking our Senators to carry the water for them and ask for things anyway. If you haven't read this story, be sure to read it for an education on the practicalities of working inside the Beltway.

I still wasn't ready to pile on and write about all this, but today it came to light that apparently Rep. Broun's chief of staff has resigned. Now perhaps, given all of the above, this will be a good thing, but the turmoil is worrisome. Paul Broun seems to be an enigma. Or perhaps even a riddle wrapped in an enigma and shrouded in mystery.

But I for one am struggling to have an enigma for a congressman. Part of me likes having a strong conservative with a maverick streak representing our district. He seems to be responsive to constituents and has stayed engaged locally. He also seems to be a nice man personally when I have met him (I have not had any extended interaction with him personally or politically). But another part of me worries about his effectiveness as an advocate for the needs and causes of voters and institutions in the district. While principles are great in politics, there are times when rhetoric must be put aside and the art of compromise must be employed.

Can someone solve the riddle for me?


Anonymous said...

Perhaps you might look at the things Barry Fleming said about Paul Broun (like his past financial issues showed a pattern of irresponsibility or the fact that some of his votes aren't conservative at all) and look at those in light of what's going on now. You might find a lot of truth there. Similarly, the voters who "rejected" the negative campaigning might reassess their motives and ask themselves if they did that because they just didn't want to believe they had chosen a representative with those kind of issues. Like dealing with national problems like Medicare and Social Security or immigration, it's easier to ignore it than actually examine the facts. And as is usually the case when ignoring these things, the floodgates burst when it's too late to fix it. Paul Broun will be reelected in November, so we're stuck for two more years with him. And from what I'm hearing, it's only going to get worse when the disclosure books are released in two weeks. I won't be surprised at all if you "reject" that just as the voters "rejected" the negative campaigning. However, if you're at all curious as to how dire it is, check Broun's staff list with Then call the offices and start asking for them. They were there on the 17th. Where are they now?

Brian said...

I wasn't one of those people saying that Barry's points weren't valid. I was just making the point that it was obvious voters weren't crazy about the approach.

Anonymous said...

So how do we get rid of this guy? Any ideas?

Jmac said...

You vote Bobby Saxon, and then run a stronger Republican in 2010. Saxon would at least respect the local concerns from the district and I would imagine his conservative Democratic views are actually more in tune with most of the people in the district anyway.

Your choice now is someone who talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk, wastes $1.5 billion of taxpayer money for his re-election because he couldn't keep up with Barry Fleming's fundraising and has a personal philosophical view that prevents him from advocating for his constituents.

Vote Saxon, take him for two years and then saddle up again in 2010 (or support Saxon then too if you like his work).

Brian said...

Jmac -- big difference between million and billion.

As for Broun, we'll see. Saxon likely won't beat him. But if misspending causes a serious deterioration in constituent services because of lack of staff, etc. he could feel the wrath in 2 years, even if the regular voter doesn't see the need to bring home the bacon to the district.

Jmac said...

Ah yes ... I got carried away in my math. See, this is why I majored in journalism!