A former Democratic state lawmaker filed a formal complaint Tuesday asking the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate payments from an energy firm totaling more than $900,000 over a two-year period to the husband of U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Silt Republican and staunch advocate of the oil and gas industry.
Former state Rep. Bri Buentello, D-Pueblo, a persistent Boebert critic, alleges in the complaint that the payments — first revealed in a personal financial disclosure form filed last week by Boebert — could run afoul of federal bribery statutes and a House rule that forbids influence trading, pointing to legislation Boebert has introduced this year to boost the oil and gas industry, a major economic driver in her district.
Boebert reported that her husband, Jayson Boebert, received $478,386 last year from Terra Energy Productions for "consulting services" and received $460,601 from the same firm in 2019, while a previous filing listed her husband's income as "N/A." The disclosure was first reported by The Associated Press.
Boebert, the owner of a firearms-themed restaurant in Rifle, surprised five-term U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in last year's GOP primary and went on to win the general election in the Western Slope-based, Republican-leaning 3rd Congressional District.
The AP reported that there doesn't appear to be a company named Terra Energy Productions doing business in Colorado, though Texas-based Terra Energy Partners refers to itself as "one of the largest producers of natural gas in Colorado."
Buentello alleges in her complaint that the large payments are "inconsistent with Mr. Boebert’s qualifications relative to that level of compensation," citing employment compensation data that show oil and gas workers in similar positions typically make $41,000-$84,000, with top earners pulling in $174,000 annually. She also notes that Jayson Boebert's compensation went up from 2019 to 2020, despite a pronounced nationwide slump in drilling activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The disproportionate size and belated disclosure of this compensation raises questions about when these funds were actually paid to Jayson Boebert, and whether this compensation was made in exchange for actions taken by Rep. Lauren Boebert since being sworn into Congress in January," Buentello wrote.
"As a member of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Boebert introduced legislation in February to reverse President Joe Biden’s temporary ban on oil and gas leasing on federal lands and the revocation of a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have materially benefited Terra Energy Partners."
A Boebert spokesman dismissed Buentello's complaint as a "waste of everyone's time," saying the lawmaker has been fully transparent and never hidden the fact that she and her husband have both worked in the fossil fuel industry that she and supports it.
"Representative Boebert exceeded her FEC disclosure requirements in the name of full transparency and to avoid any semblance of impropriety," Jake Settle, Boebert's press secretary, told Colorado Politics in an email.
"She has been clear since the day she announced a run for Congress that both she and her husband have worked in the oil and natural gas industry and were supportive of efforts to increase production and expand pipeline development. The constant string of left wing attacks from political hacks are without merit and a waste of everyone's time."
The Office of Congressional Ethics doesn't comment on complaints or requests for investigations and can take months before deciding whether to launch a formal investigation.
Buentello is a volunteer with Rural Colorado United, a political committee that has been campaigning to defeat Boebert since last summer. In January, she sued Boebert for blocking her from interacting with the lawmaker's personal Twitter account, but in June a federal judge declined to issue an injunction, saying that Boebert was within her rights.
Last week, Buentello called on the Boeberts to release several years of tax returns and demanded that Jayson Boebert detail "what specific work he performed for Terra Energy Productions to earn this million-dollar payout."