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.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”