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Top GOPer may have improperly used House aides for political work

A House committee won't open a special probe into whether a top Republican used official funds for her political career. But it isn't dropping the case.
U.S. House Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers listens during a briefing, Mar. 5, 2014.
U.S. House Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers listens during a briefing, Mar. 5, 2014.

A House committee won't appoint a special investigative panel to probe whether a top Republican improperly used official funds to boost her political career—for now. But the committee also isn't dropping the case.

The House Ethics Committee on Monday released a 422-page report on the allegations, which concern Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington. The report refers to emails from McMorris staffers suggesting that several of her House aides helped with her 2012 re-election campaign during work hours, sometimes while at her House office.

“The Board finds that there is substantial reason to believe that: (1) a campaign debate preparation session was held in Representative McMorris Rodgers’ congressional office,” and “congressional staff attended campaign activities during official hours without taking leave or documenting time spent performing debate activities.”

But the committee said it hadn't yet decided whether to open a full investigation into the allegations. Many similar complaints are dropped before a full investigation is opened —triggering concerns that Congres's self-politicing mechanism is broken.

Elliot Berke, a lawyer for McMorris Rodgers, said in a statement to the Ethics Committee that the aides were working as volunteers for McMorris Rodgers’s campaign, and were not on the clock for their House jobs.

And aides close to McMorris Rodgers have previously said that they asked the Ethics Committee many times whether she was allowed to use outside funds for the leadership race, and were told she was.

McMorris Rodgers is the highest ranking woman in the GOP leadership. Earlier this year, she gave the party’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech—including an anti-Obamacare anecdote that was widely judged to be misleading.