MORGANTOWN – The Office of Congressional Ethics has found that Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., misspent campaign money on himself and has referred its report to the House Ethics Committee, according to CQ Roll Call, a Capitol Hill publication.
The OCE has not yet released its report, but Roll Call obtained a copy and reported on it Monday. Roll Call said the OCE board voted July 16 to send its report to the Ethics Committee. Under OCE procedures, the report could become public 45 to 90 days after the committee receives it.
Roll Call reported at the end of June that the OCE was investigating Mooney, who represents West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. “Congressman Mooney is cooperating fully with the inquiry into this matter,” Mark Harris, a Mooney campaign spokesman, told Roll Call.
The OCE report said Mooney charged his campaign for numerous meals at restaurants near his home or district office, some of which the OCE said were impermissible. The Alex Mooney for Congress committee made 220 disbursements of $25 or less at restaurants since 2017, the beginning of his second term. The $3,475 tab includes spending at Chick-Fil-A, Taco Bell and pizza shops.
OCE said, “In his interview, Rep. Mooney stated that he feels justified in charging meals to the campaign any time there are constituents at the location he happens to choose to eat at that day,” the OCE report said.
Roll Call reported that OCE said that although some of these fast food purchases could have been related to a campaign purpose — and thus, allowable — Mooney’s “clear conviction that individual day-to-day meals can be paid for by the campaign indicate that a large portion fall within the prohibited category.”
OCE also said that at least two trips Mooney made to West Virginia resorts — Canaan Valley Resort and Smoke Hole Caverns and Log Cabin Resort — amounted to personal use of campaign funds, the report said.
Mooney’s campaign failed to properly disclose at least $40,115 in spending since 2017, the OCE report says. $22,865 that Mooney received in unitemized reimbursements from the campaign, and $17,250 related to gift card purchases at St. James Parish and St. Zita’s Gift Shop. Mooney provided documentation for roughly $8,461.
Mooney paid his campaign back $12,139 for his personal expenditures, Roll Call reported. Among them was $947 in propane utility bills Mooney split with the campaign because he uses his basement as a campaign office space.
OCE concluded, “There is reason to believe” lack of proper disclosure “has had the effect, whether intended or not, of concealing thousands of dollars of personal use.”
Roll Call reported that the ethics committee is now doing its own investigation to determine whether Mooney omitted required information from FEC reports or converted campaign funds for personal use.
The committee, containing five Republican and five Democrats, has subpoena power and can impose penalties, including fines.
Sanctions could range from no punishment to a recommendation that the full House vote for expulsion, the latter of which is unlikely, Roll Call said.