McMorris Rodgers Unlikely to Face Penalties in Ethics Probe

Saturday, 29 Mar 2014 05:17 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Despite an independent watchdog group's findings that Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers may have misused public and campaign funds, it's not likely the House Ethics Committee will hit her with sanctions or penalties, say experts on House rules.

The Ethics Committee said last week that it plans to extend its review on the allegations made against McMorris Rodgers, but has not appointed a special subcommittee to look more deeply into the claims, reports The Hill.

The independent Office of Congressional Ethics recently reported it believes the lawmaker funded trips back home to Washington State before the 2012 election with taxpayer money, although the trips were related to her reelection efforts. Further, her staff could not provide records that documented official events. In addition, the office used campaign funds to pay a political consultant.

But such mixups are "fairly common" and "happens in probably many other congressional offices," said Common Cause Spokeswoman Mary Boyle. Further, there is often some confusion concerning expenditures candidates make in the weeks before an election, experts said.

McMorris Rodgers, 44, is a rising Republican Party star in her fifth term in office. Earlier this year, she delivered the GOP response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union, and her conference post places her at No. 4 in the House GOP leadership and makes her the highest-ranking female Republican in the lower chamber.

Since the Ethics Committee is made up of lawmakers from both parties, it's not always easy them to police themselves. Meanwhile, McMorris Rodgers, through attorney Elliot Berke, rebutted the findings and said she is sure she will be cleared of wrongdoing.

She and Berke also wrote a letter to the Ethics Committee to inform it she has worked with her office staffers to keep better records of their campaign work.

Earlier this week, Ethics Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and ranking Democrat Linda Sanchez, of California, said there would be no further statements on the case, and their announcement of an extended review does not indicate a violation has occurred.

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