Congress, Elections

State GOP stands by Mooney as House Ethics review continues

MORGANTOWN – The state Republican Party is standing by Rep. Alex Mooney as the House Ethics Committee continues its review of the 54-page report from the Office of Congressional Ethics detailing alleged ethics violations by Mooney.

“Most of the sourcing on that report seems to be from some disgruntled ex-employees,” said party Executive Director John Findlay. “Alex, as he made clear in his statements, has resolved the issues that were presented in the report. He’s the nominee, he is a solid conservative, a fighter for West Virginia and we look forward to supporting him in the fall.”

The OCE report, released Monday, details several areas where Mooney “may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law.” Each allegation is qualified by the phrase “may have”:

  • accepted a free or below-market-value trip to Aruba, as well as free lodging and event space from a company that provides services to his campaign committee;
  • used official resources, including staff time, for campaign work and personal errands;
  • authorized expenditures from his Members’ Representational Allowance that were not for permissible official expenses;
  • disbursed campaign funds that may not be legitimate and verifiable campaign expenditures attributable to bona fide campaigns or political purposes;
  • withheld, concealed, or otherwise falsified information during an OCE investigation.

The OCE describes itself as a “non-partisan, independent entity established by the House in 2008 to conduct initial reviews of allegations of misconduct and, when warranted, refer matters to the Committee on Ethics, which has exclusive jurisdiction to find violations and impose punishment.”

On Monday, the committee issued a statement further extending its review of the matter, cautioning that conducting further review and disclosing that it is doing so does not indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment by the committee, which contains five Democrats and five Republicans.

The committee does not comment on these matters and referred The Dominion Post to the committee rule book and to committee reports and statements for descriptions of how it handles these matters and potential sanctions.

If an allegation is determined to be true, the committee holds a hearing regarding sanctions and votes on a motion to recommend the sanction(s) to the full House.

The committee may issue a Letter of Reproval directly to the member. Rep. David McKinley received one in 2016 for failing to change the name of his engineering firm – then know as McKinley & Associates – in violation of federal code saying a House member shall not permit his name to be used by firms providing professional services involving a fiduciary relationship.

The committee may also recommend to the full House, in ascending order, denial or limitation of right, power, privilege or immunity; fine; reprimand; censure; expulsion. Expulsion requires a two-thirds vote; the others require a majority vote.

People familiar with the process noted that there have been only two reprimands in the past decade, while the last censure was in 2010.The process is rare, involved and lengthy.

A brief review of public records indicates there have been only five House expulsions – three in 1861 for disloyalty to the Union, one in 1980 for bribery and one in 2002 for bribery and other crimes.

Mooney’s office issued a statement on the OCE report and supplied a copy to The Dominion Post.

It says the report “was tainted from the outset by the OCE’s procedural irregularities and denial of due process. These procedural improprieties are compounded by the OCE’s rampant factual misrepresentations, evidentiary exaggerations, and plainly wrong legal conclusions.

“For these reasons, Congressman Mooney believes the only fair outcome in this matter would be the outright dismissal of the OCE’s report and referral. Nonetheless … Congressman Mooney pledges his continuing cooperation with the Committee. Congressman Mooney has detailed to the Committee on Ethics the numerous procedural improprieties, factual and evidentiary shortcomings, and mistaken legal conclusions tainting the OCE’s review, report, and findings.”

Mooney went on to address two sets of allegations.

Regarding a family trip to Aruba, he reimbursed the company “for what the Congressman believes to be more than the value of any gift to him. There was no improper connection between any gift and any official action by the Congressman. No taxpayer funds were used to pay for this trip.”

And he “flatly rejects the OCE’s allegations of evidence tampering and false statements. These allegations are prime examples – but far from the only examples – of the OCE reaching biased conclusions against Congressman Mooney based on exaggerated ‘evidence’ that does not even satisfy the OCE’s low burden of proof.”

Mooney said OCE acknowledges that its allegation of tampering is based on the testimony of witnesses who expressed concern about the accuracy of their recollection of events.

It concludes, “Rep. Mooney has been and will continue to be in cooperation with the committee. Congressman Mooney looks forward to working with the Committee on Ethics to resolve these matters.”

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