Expert Says Mooney’s Response To Alleged Ethics Violations ‘Straight Out Of Trump's Playbook’
A political science expert says U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney is working directly from the “President Trump playbook” in response to alleged ethics violations.
A U.S. House ethics committee recommends further investigation after finding Mooney likely broke House of Representative rules and federal law.
The committee's report includes allegations that Mooney took a family Caribbean vacation funded by a campaign client, had his staff run personal errands and tampered with evidence. A synopsis of the allegations and response can be found here.
This is the second round of alleged ethics violations for the Republican who just 13 days ago defeated fellow incumbent David Mckinley by 18 points in West Virginia’s Republican primary for the new Second Congressional District seat. Mooney is backed by former President Donald Trump.
Marybeth Beller, Marshall University associate professor of political science notes that the Congressional Ethics Committee is the only committee in the House of Representatives that is made up evenly of both parties, so it is strictly nonpartisan by design. That committee voted unanoumously to further investigate Mooney.
Mooney called the entire probe tainted. In a response statement, he said he made a fair vacation expense reimbursement to the company of a close friend who has provided campaign funds and aid. He said the allegations of evidence tampering and false statements stem from investigative lapses and blatant bias.
Beller notes the 54 page ethics committee report details numerous alleged violations.
“This report has many allegations of abuse of staff,” Beller said. “Using staff for personal things such as child care and dog grooming, but also to use staff to plan campaign events, which is strictly not allowed under house rules.”
Beller said, except for the reimbursement statement, Mooney does not respond to any other specific allegation. She said his defense comes straight from the ‘Trump playbook’ of using similar language in the allegations to attack his foes.
“Rather than actually addressing everything that's listed in the report, he is simply saying the process was tainted,” Beller said. “So he's using the Trump playbook to go back against the people on the committee who made the report.”
Beller said it is difficult to suggest that the committee findings are tainted because the committee is bipartisan. But she notes the committee is simply asking for further review and investigation.
Beller added that this is the second time that Mooney has come up under investigation with the House.
“The first was a report that came out much earlier indicating that he had used campaign contributions for personal use, including a ski trip with his family and use of very local restaurants to his home,” Beller said. “The Congressman responded that the skiing trip was actually connected to his campaign because he was out meeting with citizens. He said he was using the restaurant purchases to meet with citizens and therefore it was an allowable charge. But these restaurants were very, very close to the Congressman's home.”
Penalties for violating House ethics rules include fines and reprimands. If Mooney is found to have violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, he could be prosecuted in court for violations of federal law.
What happens next?
Beller said the House will receive the report and decide if it will ask for further investigation.
“The House can call for hearings,” Beller said. “And bring members of the campaign for Congressman Mooney as well as government staff and require that they testify.”
In his response statement, Mooney noted that he has been, and will continue to be, in cooperation with the committee. He said he looks forward to working with the House Committee on Ethics to resolve these matters.