Report: McAuliffe Cabinet Member Violated Lobbying Laws

Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014 09:44 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's new commerce secretary, Maurice Jones, told federal investigators he was unaware that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development prohibits lobbying on pending legislation when he was working for the agency last year, The Washington Times reports.

Jones, who was then deputy secretary at HUD, sent an email to more than 1,000 recipients soliciting their help in preventing a housing bill from coming up for a vote.

The Times obtained a draft of an Inspector General's report, expected to be released this week, that states Jones improperly lobbied Congress in 2013 by sending the mass email — which 46 HUD staffers also received — to "defend against efforts by some Republicans" to quash a vote on a housing bill, as well as telling "friends and supporters" to tell senators to vote "no" on another amendment.

"[Deputy secretary] stated that it was articulated to him that 'I could do things that others could not,'" investigators wrote in the report obtained by the Times.

Investigators launched an investigation at the behest of Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, R-N.C., who thought the email violated federal restrictions on lobbying by federal agencies, according to the Times.

In addition to Jones violating HUD policy on lobbying federal employees, HUD's Office of Inspector General also found that Jones and four other HUD staffers violated anti-lobbying laws restricting the use of funds for publicity.

The report also found that Elliot Minceberg, acting general deputy assistant secretary, tried to impede the investigation, threatened agents, and wanted assurances that congressional Republicans would not receive the list of email recipients, The Times reports.

Last month, McAuliffe tapped Jones, a former publisher of The Virginian-Pilot newspaper, as Virginia's next secretary of commerce and trade.

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