Ethics panel sanctions Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers for misusing campaign funds

By Kyle Cheney

The House Ethics Committee has sanctioned Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) after a five-year investigation found a "concerning pattern" of paying official consultants using campaign funds or accepting voluntary services — in violation of House rules and laws.

The committee's extraordinarily long review described "sloppy practices" and record keeping stretching back to 2008, which contributed to the improper use of campaign funds. The Ethics Committee also found evidence that McMorris Rodgers' staffers "used official resources, including official staff time, congressional office space, and travel funds, for political activities."

"The extensive record compiled by the Committee in this matter demonstrates that the offices of Representative Rodgers frequently exhibited an indifference to the laws, rules and regulations relating to the use of official and unofficial resources," concluded the panel, which is chaired by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) but equally divided between Democrats and Republicans.

"This indifference led to myriad instances of resources being used inappropriately. While in some of those instances, the misuse appeared to be a minor deviation from expected conduct, at other times the impropriety was more severe."

As a result of the long-running string of ethical and legal violations, McMorris Rodgers was ordered to reimburse the government $7,576.

The ethics panel noted that McMorris Rodgers accepted responsibility for the findings and has "taken steps to prevent such conduct from happening in the future."

The panel also praised her for full cooperation and acknowledged that McMorris Rodgers likely was unaware of the "full extent" of her office's transgressions, though it concluded that she should have known.

“Over the course of six years and four Congresses, the congresswoman and her staff voluntarily cooperated with the [Ethics] Committee in full, as it noted in its report, producing 66,500 pages of documents and submitting to over 30 witness interview requests," said a McMorris Rodgers' spokesperson in a statement. "We are pleased that the committee has ended its review and we can finally put this matter behind us."

The spokesperson added: "This matter began after a disgruntled former employee raised complaints against the congresswoman regarding forced campaign activity. She is particularly satisfied that the committee found no evidence that she ever compelled staff to assist with campaign or other political efforts."

John Bresnahan contributed to this report.