Rep. Heath Shuler’s (D-N.C.) actions in a 2007 land swap with the TVA are starting to look like a real electoral liability.
Shuler’s office points out that he has been cleared of wrongdoing in the case by the House ethics committee, federal authorities and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) inspector general. But a report released by that inspector general this week indicates he wasn’t truthful about the matter with the local press.
The report from the inspector general states that, contrary to Shuler’s claims, he contacted TVA CEO Tom Kilgore while the land swap was in progress. Shuler has told the local press that there had been no contact between him and the TVA, according to reports.
"Specifically, if all of this was above board, why did TVA and Shuler feel compelled to tell the media that there was no contact between the congressman and TVA in relation to the Maintain and Gain application?" the report said. "There obviously was."
Shuler had a stake in the land swap because of his involvement in a local development, and the situation raised red flags because he sat on a committee in Congress that had authority over the TVA.
The report indicates he was pushing for a permit from the TVA and was upset about how long it was taking. He did specify that he was “taking off his congressional hat” and that he didn’t want special treatment, which would appear to be an acknowledgement of the potential conflict.
Shuler’s office has said it will not comment further on the matter.
The Hendersonville Times-News has more details.
Whatever the result of the land-swap situation, reporters in Shuler’s district are unlikely to take kindly to someone they think lied to them.
Republicans need to find someone who can take advantage of any openings created by the situation. Hendersonville Mayor Greg Newman and attorney Ed Krause are currently running on the GOP side, but they are not considered top-tier recruits.