Architect of the Capitol accused of ethics violations, offering ‘patriots’ private tours

The Office of the Inspector General says Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton abused his authority, misused government property and wasted taxpayer money, including offering private tours to “Patriots” in the weeks leading up the November 2020 election.

He was appointed by former President Donald Trump. The IG report said Blanton’s wife offered private tours of the U.S. Capitol in September 2020, during the time the building was closed due to COVID-19.

Social media posts on Sept. 30, 2020, created by Blanton’s wife show the couple at the Capitol dome, with a comment reading, “This is happening!!!,” and “All PATRIOTS welcome … PM me,” with a winking emoji.

Another post from that date showed a photo of the Capitol and read “Contact me for a private tour. All PATRIOTS accepted!”

The IG report says no laws were broken: “None of the posts or photos are specifically in violation of U.S. Code; however, offering private tours of the U.S. Capitol creates the appearance of impropriety and using a public position for private gain, which is a violation of AOC policy.”

The bulk of the report accuses Blanton of abuse of government property and wasting taxpayer dollars, by allowing his family to use government-owned SUVs, and driving the vehicles on out-of-state family vacations in South Carolina and Florida.

The report details allegations that Blanton’s daughters had been driving and riding in the SUVs, including in incidents that prompted complaints of reckless driving.

According to the report, one of Blanton’s daughters said her father had given her permission, and that, “She had transported both her friends and boyfriend in the vehicle and referred to using the AOC’s fuel as ‘free gas.'”

The IG report says Blanton misstated his authority when the AOC-leased Jeep Grand Cherokee was involved in a minor crash in a parking lot.

“When the driver inquired about Blanton’s insurance information, Blanton told him it was a government vehicle, he was an ‘agent,’ and that he did not have insurance information because the government would handle the insurance claim.”

In another instance, a Fairfax County police report described Blanton as “an off-duty D.C. police officer.” According to the IG report, Blanton denied claiming he was a member of law enforcement, and said his credentials are marked to say “Capitol Police Board Member.”

The Office of the Inspector General referred the case to the U.S. Attorney’s office in D.C., as well to the Eastern District of Virginia. Both offices declined to prosecute, the inspector general wrote.

“Blanton’s actions have violated every pillar the OIG operates under including theft, fraud, waste and abuse against not only the AOC but also the taxpayer,” according to the OIG report.

WTOP is seeking comment from Blanton, through the Architect of the Capitol website.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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