Nine-term Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), dogged by accusations that he ran a phony charity that took campaign donors on golf outings instead of giving out scholarships, announced Friday that he will not seek reelection. He will, however, serve out the remainder of his term.
Buyer, the senior Republican on the Committee on Veterans Affairs, said his decision was prompted by the illness of his wife, who he said is suffering from an "incurable autoimmune disease."
Melanie Sloan, director of watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a group that filed an ethics complaint against Buyer on Monday, said she is skeptical of his public explanation. "If your wife is really that sick, wouldn't you be leaving now and not in a year?" asked Sloan -- adding that she wished the best for Buyer's spouse.
CREW filed a complaint with the IRS and the Office of Congressional Ethics. Relying on news reports, the complaint alleges that Buyer's Frontier Foundation is run by friends and family members, shares office space with Buyer's campaign, get money from businesses with interests before the congressional committees that Buyer sits on, and hasn't handed out a single scholarship.
"Reprehensibly, Rep. Buyer appears to have been using Frontier fundraisers to play golf at exclusive domestic and foreign resorts to avoid paying for his own travel, meals, lodging, and greens fees, all on the backs of Indiana's underprivileged students," said CREW's complaint. "Surely, at least one underprivileged student could have attended college on the amount of money Frontier spends for Rep. Buyer's travel and golf."
"For all we know, it's the tip of the iceberg," said Sloan. "It's always a positive thing when a member who's ethically challenged chooses not to stay."
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