House Ethics Committee releases report on second Mooney ethics investigation
FALLING WATERS, W.Va. — The House Ethics Committee is still reviewing information after releasing the second investigative report into alleged actions by U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, including using congressional and campaign staff for personal errands, accepting a trip to Aruba, and false testimony and evidence tampering
The House Ethics Committee released a second report Monday submitted to the committee by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics back in December 2021. The OCE Board voted unanimously to submit the report to the House Ethics Committee and recommended further review.
According to the report, investigators allege that Mooney, R-W.Va., may have accepted a trip to Aruba from a company that has done work for his political campaign at reduced prices, including lodging at the Ritz-Carlton. The trip was paid for by HSP Direct LLC, a direct mail company used by the Mooney campaign.
“Congressional staff resources were devoted to arranging the Mooneys’ travel, all while Rep. Mooney evaded Ethics Committee review of the trip,” the report stated.
Investigators discovered that Mooney, members of his family, and campaign and congressional staff had use of a house connected to HSP Direct at no cost to Mooney. The house was used for lodging, work space, and also used to host events.
Investigators accused Mooney of converting campaign funds for buying groceries for himself, using campaign funds for family activities, and using official resources and staff time for campaign work and personal errands.
“Rep. Mooney routinely diverted official resources and staff time away from his constituents and official duties in favor of his and his family’s personal needs and sometimes for campaign activities,” the report stated. “Moreover, staff rarely, if ever, were compensated for the substantial time and effort devoted to serving the Mooney family, and at times were forced to absorb costs associated with personal errands or work extra hours to make up for lost time.”
OCE investigators also accused Mooney of being uncooperative in their investigation into whether the congressman tampered with entries in his calendar, including offering false testimony to investigators in an earlier OCE investigation of Mooney submitted to the House Ethics Committee last year.
“As to the allegations by two former staffers that Rep. Mooney tampered with or withheld documents … efforts to investigate these claims were significantly hampered by Rep. Mooney’s refusal to cooperate in this review,” investigators stated. “However, evidence and testimony indicate that Rep. Mooney may have offered false testimony and altered his calendar in order to conceal wrongdoing.”
The report stated that if Mooney did commit the acts uncovered by OCE investigators, then Mooney may have violated House ethics rules, standards for conduct for House members, and federal law.
The OCE began its second investigation of Mooney on Aug. 11, 2021, after wrapping up a previous OCE investigation last summer, the results of which were released to the public in October of last year. In that report, investigators accused Mooney of allegedly using campaign donations for personal purchases, trips outside his district, food, his personal car and more.
The OCE accused Mooney of improperly spending more than $40,000 since 2017 while paying back the campaign more than $12,000 after the allegations came to light. The OCE sent the results of its second investigation to the House Ethics Committee in December. In February, the House Ethics Committee said they would give a status report on the Mooney investigations by Monday.
“In order to gather additional information necessary to complete its review, the Committee will review the matter,” said House Ethics Committee Chairman Theodore Deutch, D-Fla., and Ranking Member Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., in a joint statement Monday.
“The Committee notes that the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee,” the statement continued. “In order to comply … regarding confidentiality, out of fairness to all respondents, and to assure the integrity of its work, the Committee will refrain from making further public statements on this matter pending completion of its initial review.”
Mooney defeated Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., in the May 10 Republican primary for the new 2nd Congressional district, combining much of their current House districts. According to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, Mooney defeated McKinley by more than 15,000 votes, leading McKinley 54 percent to 36 percent. Mooney’s ethics investigations became a frequent target of McKinley’s during the primary.
Ryan Kelly, a spokesperson for Mooney’s congressional office, said Monday the congressman would continue to cooperate with OCE and the House Ethics Committee, but he accused the investigation of being flawed.
“The Office of Congressional Ethics … review of Congressman Alexander Mooney, described in the OCE Report and Findings released today by the Committee on Ethics, was tainted from the outset by the OCE’s procedural irregularities and denial of due process,” Kelly said. “These procedural improprieties are compounded by the OCE’s rampant factual misrepresentations, evidentiary exaggerations, and plainly wrong legal conclusions in its report.”
Mooney, through Kelly, denied some of the allegations in the report. Mooney claims that he reimbursed the company for the Aruba trip. He also denied any tampering with evidence, accusing witnesses cited in the report of misremembering.
“Congressman Mooney flatly rejects the OCE’s allegations of evidence tampering and false statements,” Kelly said. “These allegations are prime examples – but far from the only examples – of the OCE reaching biased conclusions against Congressman Mooney based on exaggerated ‘evidence’ that does not even satisfy the OCE’s low burden of proof.”