The House Ethics Committee is considering whether to investigate accusations that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) improperly mixed campaign and official funds during her leadership race in 2012, sources familiar with the review tell NBC News.
The news was first reported by Politico.
According to NBC sources, the Office of Congressional Ethics began a review of the case last year after Todd Winer, a former McMorris Rodgers aide, accused her of mixing the funding streams to produce a video and binders about her achievements, as part of her successful campaign for House GOP conference chair.
But aides close to McMorris Rodgers say that they asked the Ethics Committee and House Administration many times whether she was allowed to use outside funds for the leadership race, and were told she was.
House ethics rules say members “may use campaign funds to pay for activities in furtherance of a campaign for one of the House leadership offices.” They also says mailings or receptions both in and out of House office buildings can be covered with those funds. But campaign funds and official funds can’t be mixed.
“We are confident that every activity was compliant with all federal laws, House rules, and Standards of Conduct,” McMorris Rodgers spokesman Nate Hodson said in a statement, “We are fully cooperating and look forward to seeing this matter dismissed.”
“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,” McMorris Rodgers’ attorney, Elliot Berke said in a statement, “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.”
“The Congresswoman and her office cooperated fully with the OCE during its inquiry and have already begun assisting the Committee with its review,” Berke continued, “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.”
McMorris Rodgers won the conference chairmanship in a close race against Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) in November of 2012. She gave the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union address last month, in which she mischaracterized the story of a constituent who claimed to have been forced by Obamacare to pay more for health-care, but in fact refused to go onto the health exchange site to look for cheaper options.
Ethics Committee co-chairs Reps. Michael Conaway and Linda Sanchez said in a statement Thursday that the committee will “announce its course of action in this matter on or before Monday, March 24, 2014.”