Labrador’s Spokesman at Heart of McMorris Rodgers Ethics Case

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) sits on a couch as she prepares for responding to President Barack Obama tonight's State of the Union address January 28, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. McMorris Rodgers, the chair of the House Republican Conference, was picked to deliver the response.
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
Feb. 6, 2014, 7:21 a.m.

The man at the cen­ter of a House eth­ics re­view in­volving Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence Chair­wo­man Cathy Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers is her own former press spokes­man, who now serves as com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or for Rep. Raul Lab­rador.

At the heart of the eth­ics re­view is wheth­er Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers broke House rules by us­ing cam­paign funds to cov­er some of the costs of her in­tern­al GOP lead­er­ship race, something that former staffer Todd Winer, who left Mc­Mor­ris Ro­gers’s of­fice after the Wash­ing­ton state Re­pub­lic­an won her lead­er­ship post in 2012, has al­leged, sources say. Winer did not im­me­di­ately re­turn calls and an email Thursday.

“We’re fully co­oper­at­ing,” said Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers, who nar­rowly de­feated Rep. Tom Price to be­come the fourth-rank­ing Re­pub­lic­an in the House. It was just last week that Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers grabbed a slice of the na­tion­al spot­light when she gave the GOP re­sponse to the State of the Uni­on Ad­dress.

Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers’s law­yer and a spokes­man also re­leased pre­pared state­ments, vehe­mently deny­ing Winer’s al­leg­a­tions.

One source sym­path­et­ic to Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers, who did not want to be iden­ti­fied, said Winer was un­happy about not get­ting the job as the House Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or. The source claimed that he is known to have star­ted shop­ping his al­leg­a­tions around to re­port­ers and oth­ers last year.

After its look in­to the mat­ter, the in­de­pend­ent Of­fice of Con­gres­sion­al Eth­ics re­com­men­ded in Decem­ber that the House Eth­ics Com­mit­tee con­duct a full re­view of the case. The com­mit­tee is ex­pec­ted to an­nounce Thursday that it will take an­oth­er 45 days to re­view the mat­ter.

“We are con­fid­ent that every activ­ity was com­pli­ant with all fed­er­al laws, House rules, and stand­ards of con­duct. We are fully co­oper­at­ing and look for­ward to see­ing this mat­ter dis­missed,” Nate Hod­son, a spokes­man for Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers, said in a state­ment.

El­li­ot Berke, Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers’s at­tor­ney, took a swipe at the Of­fice of Con­gres­sion­al Eth­ics it­self.

“As has be­come an un­for­tu­nate rite of pas­sage for many mem­bers of Con­gress, the OCE reg­u­larly refers mat­ters to the House Eth­ics Com­mit­tee for fur­ther re­view. Such re­views are vir­tu­ally auto­mat­ic, and as the com­mit­tee al­ways points out, does not in­dic­ate that any vi­ol­a­tion has oc­curred, or re­flect any judg­ment on be­half of the Com­mit­tee,” said Berke, who is with the law firm McGuire Woods.

He ad­ded, “The con­gress­wo­man and her of­fice co­oper­ated fully with the OCE dur­ing its in­quiry and have already be­gun as­sist­ing the com­mit­tee with its re­view. We are con­fid­ent that the com­mit­tee will ul­ti­mately find that the al­leg­a­tions were base­less and that her of­fice al­ways fol­lowed all laws, rules, and stand­ards of con­duct.”

A spokes­wo­man for the OCE de­clined to com­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the OCE’s rules, to refer a mat­ter to the Eth­ics Com­mit­tee for fur­ther re­view, its board must con­clude after eval­u­at­ing all the evid­ence that there is “sub­stan­tial reas­on to be­lieve a vi­ol­a­tion has oc­curred.”

Wheth­er Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers and Lab­rador have talked about the mat­ter, or Winer, is un­clear. Price said Thursday he knew noth­ing about the in­vest­ig­a­tion, which was first re­por­ted by Politico.

Sarah Mimms contributed to this article.
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