On his first day back to Washington after a long summer recess and a work trip to the Middle East, U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger declined to discuss the federal investigation into the financing of his 2012 campaign.
The Charlotte, N.C., Republican did not dispute a Charlotte Observer/McClatchy report Sunday that the FBI and IRS were investigating whether he improperly transferred money from his former real estate company, Pittenger Land Investments, for his campaign. But he accused the newspaper and its parent company of practicing tabloid journalism.
Lawmakers returned to Washington on Tuesday after the congressional recess. Pittenger, who had just arrived from a trip to the Middle East, joined other members of Congress on Capitol Hill for the 2015 North Carolina Business and Economic Development Summit, a gathering of city and county officials to hear about funding and other happenings in Washington.
Further review by additional attorneys has affirmed that we acted properly and legally.
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, in a statement
Approached after a panel discussion, Pittenger said he had answered everything about the federal investigation and scolded the news organization for not writing about more serious matters, such as his efforts to help the economy and protect national security.
Part of his recent trip was to meet with U.S. allies to secure greater support for a crackdown on terrorism financing. Pittenger is vice chairman of the Financial Services Committee’s Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing.
“You should start looking at these important issues and not be a tabloid,” he said.
Pittenger acknowledged last month that Pittenger Land Investments was being investigated by the FBI, but denied any wrongdoing. He said in a statement this week that he worked with “knowledgeable attorneys and accountants” in all aspects of funding his campaign.
“Further review by additional attorneys has affirmed that we acted properly and legally,” Pittenger said.
Jamie Bowers, Pittenger’s spokesman, said Wednesday that Pittenger will continue to forward all information requested by the government if and when requested.
Have so many Charlotte investors become whiners?
Former N.C. Gov. Jim Martin, in a letter of support to Pittenger
Since its start 30 years ago, Pittenger Land Investments has gathered hundreds of investors to purchase raw tracts of land. The company's goal is to make a profit for investors and the company by later selling the land to developers at a higher price. Investors in some deals say they have made money, but others say they are frustrated because the land hasn't been sold after years of waiting.
Two sources who spoke with the Charlotte Observer said that federal investigators have asked some investors questions about how they thought their money would be used and if they thought it’d be used political purposes.
The Observer has also reported that some investors have been unhappy with the recent performance of the company, which has been led by his wife, Suzanne, since Pittenger’s election to Congress. Pittenger said the House Ethics Committee allowed the transfer, but he has declined to release a letter from the committee approving of the sale because, he says, the letter contains personal information.
When approached on Tuesday, Pittenger handed a reporter a letter written by former N.C. Gov. Jim Martin, in which he accused the Observer of attacking anyone who tries to make money and called angry investors “whiners.”
Martin had sent his thoughts as a Letter to the Editor in August, but it wasn’t published because the Charlotte Observer published an op-ed from Pittenger at the same time that made many of the same points, said Taylor Batten, the Observer’s editorial page editor.
Reached by the Observer on Wednesday, Martin, a Republican, said: “The Pittenger properties are a good investment for people. I tried to say that. That was not of interest to you all. I don’t know if I can say anything more about it.”
On Aug. 27, Pittenger Land Investments sent Martin’s letter to the company’s investors in an email, calling it an “insightful editorial.” Some of the company’s investors have told the Observer they were angered that PLI would send them a letter calling them “whiners" after many have been waiting years for a return on their investment.
Charlotte Observer reporter Rick Rothacker contributed.