IN Focus: Braun gains momentum, also faces controversy over legislative record

INDIANAPOLIS - Initially pegged as the dark-horse candidate in the three-way Republican primary for Joe Donnelly's seat in the U.S. Senate, former State Rep. Mike Braun is gaining new momentum while also dealing with a new controversy about his brief legislative record.

A business owner in Southern Indiana, the former state lawmaker has been putting a lot of his own money into the race, appearing frequently in TV commercials statewide and raising his profile ahead of next month's primary.

But a new report from the Indianapolis Star could slow some of Braun's momentum.

According to the IndyStar, the former state representative pushed legislation benefiting his industry during his brief time in the General Assembly:

During his short tenure as a state lawmaker, Braun worked to reduce taxes and regulations on an industry in which he holds a significant personal financial interest — a connection that raises ethical concerns, critics say.

Braun owns more than 5,000 acres of timber land in southern Indiana valued at more than $5 million. He harvests the trees on that land for hardwood, yielding tens of thousands of dollars in income each year.

At the same time, he successfully pushed legislation at the Statehouse that provided millions of dollars in tax breaks for the timber industry and cut regulatory costs for hauling logs. He also tried unsuccessfully to put new limits on logging in state forests, potentially forcing more logging onto private timber lands like his.

Braun defended his actions and denied that the legislation benefited him financially, despite his status as one of Indiana's largest timber land owners.

In the video above, Braun paints his business experience as a positive and takes on his opponents' records in Congress.

"When you've been around as long as they've been in politics, the truth will come out," said Braun.

We also asked Braun about the backlash to one of his campaign ads that featured the widow of an Uber driver killed in a crash involving an undocumented immigrant.

The Uber driver's widow said she did not give the Braun campaign permission to use her husband's picture in their campaign ad.

Our interview with Braun was recorded on Thursday, before the IndyStar's report on Braun's legislative record came out on Friday.

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