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.
What We're Following See More »
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has released its score of the House-passed American Health Care Act, which would replace Obamacare. According to the CBO, the bill would reduce the deficit by $119 billion by 2026, while leaving 14 million more Americans uninsured in 2018 than under current law, a number swelling to 23 million by 2026. Further, insurance premiums would balloon 20 percent in 2018 and five percent in 2019 before the waiver provision in the legislation would kick in. The provision allows states to apply for waivers and permit insurers to offer skimpier plans, which would likely entice younger and healthier individuals to buy health insurance while potentially pricing older and less healthy Americans out of insurance plans. House Republicans approved this bill in late April without waiting for the CBO score.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing that President Donald Trump's budget is literal more than recycling bin material. "The budget proposed by the president doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of passing," Graham said. Graham had previously opposed the budget over its nearly 30 percent cut to the budget of the State Department. The budget slashes spending on domestic priorities while increasing military spending.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that he doesn't yet know the formula towards gaining passage of an Obamacare replacement in the Senate. "I don't know how we get to 50 (votes) at the moment. But that's the goal," McConnell said. The House passed an Obamacare replacement bill which has been widely seen as dead on arrival in the Senate, and McConnell has put together a working group of Republican Senators working towards creating health care legislation which could gain the support of at least 50 Senators.
The transcript of a phone call between Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was leaked and it shows Trump referring to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as a "madman with nuclear weapons" and praising Duterte, saying he was doing an "unbelievable job on the drug problem." For context, Duterte has presided over a vicious and genocidal campaign of extrajudicial killings within his country which has led to the murder of thousands of expected drug dealers and users. Trump also told Duerte to take care of himself and promised that the U.S. would "take care of North Korea."