No Formal Ethics Probe for Wash. Rep. McMorris Rodgers

Image: No Formal Ethics Probe for Wash. Rep. McMorris Rodgers

Tuesday, 25 Mar 2014 08:14 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The House Ethics Committee opted not to open a formal investigation into allegations that Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers misused congressional and campaign funds, The Seattle Times reported.

Two committee members will continue to examine the matter.

Her lawyer, Elliot Berke, expressed confidence that the committee, which began its preliminary review of the matter in February, would ultimately dismiss the complaint, which he called "frivolous."

McMorris Rodgers is a fiscal and social conservative who is chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, the No. 4 GOP leadership position. She delivered the official Republican response to President Barack Obama's 2014 State of the Union address.

One of the allegations is that in her 2012 race for the leadership job she commingled campaign and official funds. House rules permit the expenditure of either campaign or official funds for such contests, not both.

The complaints were filed by Todd Winer, her former spokesman, who had been passed over for a promotion.

Winer said McMorris Rodgers employed a media consultant who was paid out of political-action committee funds. There were also allegations that Washington-based congressional staff members were involved in her 2012 re-election campaign.

Winer said he wrote campaign speeches for her on official time. Her lawyer said she was not aware of this. The ex-aide said that she prepared for a campaign debate in her congressional office.

She admitted the infraction, saying her children were at home and it was too noisy to prepare there, according to Roll Call.

Earlier, the independent Office of Congressional Ethics said there was "substantial merit" to the claims brought by Winer. The office unanimously decided to refer the case to the ethics panel.

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