Ethics Panel Will Continue Investigating McMorris Rodgers, Mullin Cases

The House Ethics Committee could have dropped the cases, but chose to keep going.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers speaks at a press conference at the Capitol. 
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
March 24, 2014, 11:29 a.m.

The House Eth­ics Com­mit­tee on Monday an­nounced it will fur­ther in­vest­ig­ate sep­ar­ate mat­ters in­volving Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence Chair Cathy Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers and fresh­man Rep. Mark­wayne Mul­lin.

The al­leg­a­tions in­volving Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers, of Wash­ing­ton, in­volve claims by her former press sec­ret­ary that she vi­ol­ated an ob­scure House rule against coming­ling cam­paign and tax­pay­er re­sources in her race for con­fer­ence chair in late 2012.

The mat­ter in­volving Mul­lin, an Ok­lahoma Re­pub­lic­an, seeks to re­solve wheth­er he vi­ol­ated House rules and re­ceived out­side com­pens­a­tion in his first year in Con­gress as an of­ficer or rep­res­ent­at­ive of Mul­lin Plumb­ing and af­fil­i­ates.

The an­nounce­ments from Eth­ics Chair­man Mi­chael Con­away of Texas and Rank­ing Demo­crat Linda Sanc­hez of Cali­for­nia came with re­ports from the Of­fice of Con­gres­sion­al Eth­ics, an in­de­pend­ent watch­dog that re­ferred the mat­ters to the com­mit­tee after do­ing ini­tial re­views of both cases.

The com­mit­tee could have dropped the cases, but in­stead chose to con­tin­ue its re­view.

In a pre­pared state­ment, Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers’s at­tor­ney, El­li­ot Berke, down­played the news, say­ing the Eth­ics Com­mit­tee simply needed more time to sift through the facts.

“We re­cog­nize the in­sti­tu­tion­al con­straints the Eth­ics Com­mit­tee is un­der and un­der­stand it was un­able to con­duct a full re­view dur­ing this 90-day peri­od. We re­main con­fid­ent that, in time, the com­mit­tee will dis­miss the com­plaint which was based on frivol­ous al­leg­a­tions from a single source — a former em­ploy­ee who then dis­cred­ited him­self by ad­mit­ting to his own im­prop­er con­duct,” Berke said.

“Neither Con­gress­wo­man Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers nor any oth­er staff mem­bers were aware of this con­duct and countered all of the al­leg­a­tions with the facts:  At no time did they im­prop­erly mix of­fi­cial and cam­paign re­sources,” he ad­ded.

Mul­lin’s of­fice re­spon­ded with an ag­gress­ive state­ment.

“This re­view — based on an an­onym­ous com­plaint — is re­fer­ring to wheth­er we want cit­izen le­gis­lat­ors or just pro­fes­sion­al politi­cians mak­ing laws that im­pact our jobs, our fam­il­ies, and our com­munit­ies,” Mul­lin said.

“The politi­cians said Dr. Tom Coburn couldn’t de­liv­er ba­bies when he got elec­ted to the U.S. Sen­ate,” he ad­ded. “Now they are try­ing to say that I shouldn’t be in­volved in the fam­ily plumb­ing busi­ness that my wife and I have spent the last 17 years build­ing.

“Ap­par­ently it’s ac­cept­able for mem­bers of Con­gress to own stock in com­pan­ies we reg­u­late in Con­gress, but some­how our plumb­ing com­pany crosses some line. This is more of the kind of thing that leaves people scratch­ing their heads and say­ing, ‘Only in the gov­ern­ment,’ ” Mul­lin said.

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