House GOP leader faces ethics questions

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) speaks to the media at the U.S. Capitol March 25, 2014 in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) speaks to the media at the U.S. Capitol March 25, 2014 in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the chair of the House Republican Conference and the #4 leader in the chamber, received some good news and some bad news from the House Ethics Committee this week. Zack Roth reported this week:

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.

As a rule, when the ethics panel declines to broaden an investigation, the lawmaker in question is relieved. But in this case, it's not quite that simple.
This week's report from the Office of Congressional Ethics not only detailed the allegations against McMorris Rodgers for the first time, but also said it would leave the case open.
And what kind of allegations are we talking about? As Roll Call noted, the questions surround charges that the Republican leader improperly co-mingled campaign and official funds.
"There is substantial reason to believe that Representative McMorris Rodgers used congressional funds, staff, and office space for campaign activities," "used a campaign media consultant to perform official duties" and "improperly combined congressional resources and campaign resources to produce a mailing and video for her leadership race," the committee report said.
With the allegations in mind, the Ethics Committee went on to recommend subpoenas for two former members of McMorris Rodgers' team: new media director Patrick Bell and consultant Brett O'Donnell.
Wait, Brett O'Donnell? Why does that name sound familiar?
Oh, right. His name came up just last week: he's the former debate coach from Jerry Falwell's college whom Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) hired as a rhetoric coach. Broun used public funds to pay O'Donnell and when asked about the arrangement, the congressman decided he didn't want to talk about it.
Among other things, there were ethical considerations at play -- did Broun, now a U.S. Senate candidate, use our money to hire a rhetoric coach for partisan political ends?
And now it seems McMorris Rodgers is feeling some heat from the ethics panel, at least in part because she hired the exact same coach, whom she also paid with public funds.
Given all of this, it's hard not to wonder just how many clients Brett O'Donnell had among congressional Republicans -- and how many paid him with taxpayer money.
Note, USA Today's Paul Singer helped break this story back in July when he reported that since early 2012, "several Republican congressional offices -- including the House Republican Conference, the office representing all House Republicans -- have paid political consultant Brett O'Donnell more than $52,000 from their taxpayer-funded accounts."