Back in March, 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. The panel, as Zack Roth reported
at the time, declined to appoint a special investigative panel "to probe whether a top Republican improperly used official funds to boost her political career," but it didn't drop the case
McMorris Rodgers was accused of improperly co-mingling campaign and official funds and the Ethics Committee was interested enough in the case to recommend subpoenas
for two former members of McMorris Rodgers' team.
It's unusual for a member of the House leadership to face ethics allegations like these, but in the months that followed, the McMorris Rodgers controversy largely faded away. That is, until yesterday, when a former staffer for the Washington Republican made an unusually aggressive move. Roll Call reported
A former communications director for House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers sent reporters a 1,959-word email Monday accusing the Washington Republican of "retribution" in connection with an ethics complaint against her office -- a serious charge that is the latest alleged impropriety in an ongoing Ethics Committee investigation. [...] In his email, [Todd Winer] alleges the Ethics Committee is now investigating McMorris Rodgers' efforts to "intimidate and punish" him. In fact, Winer says the Washington Republican's staff spread lies about him to the media -- an act that he says rises to "the level of defamation."
It's hard to know exactly what to make of the story. Initial reports suggested Winer was the original source of the ethics complaint against McMorris Rodgers, though the former aide denies this. But as Winer tells it, the congresswoman's office is nevertheless targeting him for "retribution," which in turn has led him to "break [his] silence" and release a memo to the media about McMorris Rodgers alleged misdeeds.
published Winer's document in its entirety. There's quite a bit there -- the former aide accuses the congresswoman's office of telling repeated "lies" -- including this allegation towards the end ("CMR" refers to Cathy McMorris Rodgers):
Here is the smoking gun that is still to come: When CMR's brass was confronted by the [Office of Congressional Ethics\ with the fact that there was no evidence to support their claim that CMR's employees filled out "leave forms" in order to do campaign work (as would be required), CMR's brass said it was because those forms were "lost in the move." However, every CMR employee knows those forms are submitted electronically -- and thus, they can't be "lost in a move." Their story was a lie, and a laughable one. I can confirm today that the Ethics Committee is extremely focused on this issue.
I should note that none of this has been independently substantiated. What we have is a former aide to a congressional leader accusing a former boss of violating ethics rules. The staffer insists the Ethics Committee's investigation is advancing and expanding, but since the panel won't comment on pending matters, we just don't know for sure.
That said, it's worth keeping an eye on this as the process continues.