Ethics panel rebukes Rep. McMorris Rodgers for misused funds

Politics

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., listens as former White House national security aide Fiona Hill, and David Holmes, a U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump’s efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Ethics Committee has rebuked Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state for misusing taxpayer money and ordered her to reimburse more than $7,500 to the U.S. Treasury.

In a report that culminates a six-year investigation, the ethics panel said McMorris Rodgers misused official resources for campaign or other political purposes.

McMorris Rodgers, in her eighth term representing Eastern Washington, was the highest-ranking woman in the House Republican caucus from 2013 through January 2019.

The report states that for at least five years, her offices were “governed by sloppy practices, including inconsistent policies and poor record-keeping,” that led to the misuse of taxpayer money.

In a letter to the committee, McMorris Rodgers said that while she disagrees with some of the panel’s findings, “I appreciate its work and take responsibility for its ultimate conclusions.”

McMorris Rodgers said she and her staff cooperated with investigators for six years, producing more than 66,000 pages of documents and submitting to more than 30 interviews.

She blamed the investigation on a disgruntled former employee who complained about forced campaign activity.

“While I do take the committee’s findings regarding improper activity that happened under my watch to heart, I am particularly satisfied that the committee found no evidence that I ever compelled my staff to assist with my campaign or other political efforts,” she said.

The investigation, which grew out of a 2013 report by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, found that McMorris Rodgers and her staff “frequently exhibited an indifference to the laws, rules and regulations relating to the use of official and unofficial resources.”

“This indifference led to myriad instances of resources being used inappropriately. Taken as a whole, the abuses reviewed by the committee add up to a concerning pattern,” the 58-page report said.

Much of the improper conduct occurred under her former chief of staff, the report says, but as a lawmaker, McMorris Rodgers “is ultimately responsible for the conduct of her staff, including her chief of staff.”

The panel did not recommend any further penalty beyond the statement of rebuke and the order to repay the Treasury.

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