Three GOP House lawmakers under ethics committee investigation
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The U.S. House of Representatives Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) released a report last week documenting numerous violations of House rules and federal law by Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV).
According to the OCE report, Mooney accepted impermissible gifts from a campaign vendor in the form of a vacation to Aruba. The company, HSP Direct, paid for “nearly all [the family’s] lodging, meals, drinks and amenities while staying at the Ritz-Carlton, Aruba,” totaling over $10,800. The congressman also used a house on Capitol Hill associated with HSP Direct at no cost.
Mooney assigned his campaign and congressional staff with personal tasks, ranging from “babysitting, to automotive repair work on personal vehicles, to assisting Rep. Mooney and his wife with their personal finances and businesses.” They were “almost never compensated for this work.”
Former Staffer 1 told the OCE that at some time every staff member was asked to perform personal errands for Rep. Mooney or his family, but that staff members in certain positions, such as schedulers or those who worked for both the campaign and the official office, were required to perform personal errands on a daily basis.100 Former Staffer 1 stated, “I think the understanding is: If you work on the campaign, you also work for the Mooney family. You were at their beck and call for anything, even though you got official salary as well.”…
Several staff members, primarily young women, were asked to watch Rep. Mooney’s daughter while he was present in the office, sometimes for hours at a time…In addition to babysitting, staff reported chauffeuring the children and Rep. Mooney to social events, recreational activities, and community college classes…When the Mooneys were unable to watch their dog Skipper, they asked Former Staffer 3 to drive Skipper from their home in Charles Town, West Virginia to Dr. Mooney’s parents’ home in Bethesda, Maryland. Former Staffer 3 could not recall how many times this occurred but told the OCE that it happened on several occasions…
Mooney and HSP Direct did not cooperate with the OCE, which does not have subpoena authority. The OCE recommends that the Committee on Ethics issue subpoenas to further the investigation.
The House Ethics Committee unanimously voted last week to impanel a special subcommittee to investigate allegations that Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) violated House rules by promoting a cryptocurrency while having a personal financial interest invested and engaged “in an improper relationship” with a member of his staff.
Late last year, the congressman—who lost his primary—posed with the founder of the “Let’s Go Brandon” meme coin, posting on Instagram “LGB legends. … Tomorrow we go to the moon!” The next day, NASCAR driver Brandon Brown announced LGB would be the primary sponsor of his 2022 season, causing the coin’s value to spike by 75%. The coin increased by 97% during the 10-day period he held the coin.
In a long-delayed financial filing on Friday, Cawthorn disclosed that he purchased between $100,001 to $250,000 worth of LGB on Dec. 21.
“This looks like a pretty classic ‘pump and dump’ scheme,” said Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
“Did he have inside information? It sure appears that way,” Libowitz told the Washington Examiner. “He’s hanging out with the guy, announced it was going to spike the next day. The next day it spiked, and then he sells a portion of it. We don’t know exactly how much he sold since he said it’s partial, but he sells it the next day.”
The other matter being investigated by the subcommittee is Cawthorn’s allegedly “improper relationship” with his staffer and younger cousin Stephen L. Smith. The complaint originated from a video of Smith putting his hand on Cawthorns crotch, captured on video and released as part of a leak campaign ahead of the primaries. The same campaign also revealed thousands of dollars of undeclared payments and gifts from Cawthorn to Smith with Venmo comments reading “the quickie at the airport” and “Getting naked for me in Sweden.”
The OCE also released a report documenting alleged violations of House rules and federal law by Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX).
Jackson is accused of using campaign funds for personal use — specifically to pay for “unlimited access” to the Amarillo Club, a private dining club in Texas. Billing statements obtained by the OCE show Jackson spent nearly $6,000 of campaign money on “dues, fees, meals, and other activities at the club.”