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IN THE NEWS: Rep. Braun fueled by sweetheart loans from banks where he has close ties, lying about fundraising strength

INDIANAPOLIS – Rep. Braun’s fundraising lies and shady practices were put back on full display today after the Daily Beast reported that Rep. Braun has funded the majority of his campaign with controversially cheap loans from banks to which he enjoys close personal and financial ties.

Rep. Braun has relied on his wealth and connections to offset his lackluster fundraising by pumping more than $4.6 million in loans into his campaign coffers. As the new article reports, many of those loans have come at far below-market rates, funded by banks whose “executives… are Braun’s friends, professional acquaintances, or campaign donors.” In one case, he has received over $2 million from Freedom Bank, which Rep. Braun has a stake in worth up to $250,000. The scheme allows Rep. Braun access to funds that would be unavailable to the vast majority of the public.

It’s increasingly clear that Rep. Braun’s claim that he can get things done in ‘the real world’ is just another lie from a candidate full of them, funded by shady loans and outsourcing profits.

From the Daily Beast: Sweetheart Loans and Creative Accounting Behind Debt-Fueled GOP Senate Campaign

Indiana Republican Mike Braun is running his U.S. Senate campaign on borrowed funds. More than three of every four dollars in his war chest was loaned to the campaign, and the bulk of it has come from banks with executives who are Braun’s friends, professional acquaintances, or campaign donors.

At the same time, Braun has used a legal but controversial accounting maneuver to circumvent donation limits by re-routing nearly $100,000 in money earmarked for a prior election through funds that he himself has lent to the campaign, and into his general-election account.

Braun is challenging Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in a key Republican pickup opportunity, and has reported less than $2 million in direct contributions for the effort, which is dwarfed by the $6.4 million in loans he’s used to bankroll the campaign.

A significant chunk of that money has come from Braun himself; he’s loaned his campaign about $1.8 million. But most of it has come by way of loans from three banks, all of which are charging him relatively low interest rates.

The first of his campaign loans, an unsecured $200,000 line of credit from a Fifth Third Bank branch in Jasper, Indiana, came the month after Braun launched his campaign. Federal Election Commission and personal financial-disclosure filings indicate that Braun personally took out the loan for the purpose of the campaign, rather than the campaign borrowing the money directly. Fifth Third lent him an additional $385,000 for the campaign in April. It wasn’t the first time Fifth Third financially supported Braun’s political efforts: Its political action committee donated to his statehouse campaign in 2014, and to his re-election effort two years later.

But Braun had even deeper connections to his other campaign lenders. In December 2017, he received a $1.5 million loan, again borrowing the money personally for use on behalf of his campaign, from the Terre Haute, Indiana-based First Financial Bank. The bank would later lend Braun an additional $500,000 for his campaign. He also received a contribution from the bank’s vice president of commercial lending, who also lists Braun as a personal reference on a publicly available version of his résumé.

An additional $2 million in campaign loans has flowed from the Jasper-based Freedom Bank. Two of that institution’s executives have collectively donated nearly $10,000 to Braun’s Senate campaign. One of them, Freedom Bank CEO Eric Olinger, is a personal friend of the candidate. Braun also owns between $100,000 and $250,000 in non-public Freedom Bank stock, according to his personal financial-disclosure filings.

Each of the five campaign loans from those three banks carries an interest rate ranging from 4 percent to 4.75 percent. That’s lower than the rates advertised by Fifth Third, for instance, which offers unsecured personal lines of credit with interest rates between 7 percent and 17 percent, according to its website.

In FEC forms disclosing his campaign loans, Braun’s campaign notes that they were extended to him at the rates they were due to “credit worthiness and candidate net worth.” In other words, Braun is able to finance his campaign with relatively cheap borrowed money due to his own personal wealth. It’s not an opportunity that would likely be available to a less-affluent candidate.

Braun’s wealth also enabled him to pull a campaign accounting maneuver that allowed him to circumvent contribution limits by effectively removing huge amounts of cash from the balance sheets of his Republican primary campaign and transferring it to the account used for the general election.

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