And the award for boldest denial in the face of evidence of financial mischief goes to … Rep. Steve Buyer!
As we’ve been reporting, Buyer, Republican of Indiana, is closely affiliated with the Frontier Foundation, an organization that has taken in over $800,000 from industry groups who Buyer is in a position to help. Despite its stated mission, the foundation hasn’t given out a single scholarship, but has spent $258,136 over six years on salary, meals, travel, and “fundraising expenses.”
Nearly $400,000 in donations to the foundation came from the pharmaceutical industry, and Buyer has worked on health care issues for years, USA Today noted in June. Buyer sits on the House Energy Subcommittee on Health.
Lobbyists and company executives use donations to foundations associated with members of Congress to woo the lawmakers and gain valuable access at fundraisers and receptions. Campaign finance limits do not apply.
But Buyer’s case is a little different. He and his office have repeatedly denied that the Frontier Foundation has any special connection to Buyer. The congressman told USA Today in June: “Do I help the foundation? Yes, I do. Do I help other charity groups? Yes, I do.”
And his press secretary blew off an Indiana newspaper, refusing to comment for a lengthy story beyond saying: “It’s not Congressman Buyer’s foundation.”
And yet, overwhelming evidence points to an extremely close relationship between Buyer — specifically his campaign operation — and the Frontier Foundation. Here’s a rundown of the links:
The foundation shares an address and phone number with Buyer’s campaign headquarters on North Main Street in Monticello, IN.
Buyer’s daughter Colleen was the president of the foundation until August 1 of this year.
His son Ryan is a director of the foundation, according to filings with the Indiana Secretary of State.
Answering the phone number of the campaign office (and foundation) today, Stephanie Mattix, until recently the secretary-treasurer of the foundation, told TPMmuckraker that the foundation shares the office but works out of “a separate room.”
The real estate company that owns the space says the lease is for Buyer, and adds that the foundation is not subleasing the space. Mattix told TPMmuckraker, though, that the foundation does pay rent.
While drawing an annual salary in the $12,000-$17,000 range from the foundation, Mattix also served as the executive director of Buyer’s Storm Chasers PAC. She is currently the finance director of his campaign and the webmaster of the campaign Web site.
Buyer was listed as the “honorary chairman” of the foundation on a 2004 donor solicitation, sent from Buyer’s office, the Lafayette Journal & Courier reported.
Companies have made donations to the Frontier Foundation “in honor of” Buyer.
Buyer has helped the foundation with its fundraisers.
So, perhaps the question we should be asking is not how Buyer’s campaign is linked to the foundation, but whether there is any difference between the two at all.
Says Dave Levinthal of the Center of Responsive Politics: “The congressman’s constituents should obviously be asking him a lot of questions about whether this is a legitimate operation, or if this is another way for supporters to curry favor with the congressman and for him to keep friends on a payroll.”
Calls to Buyer’s Washington office and to the foundation’s new president were not immediately returned.