The House Ethics Committee may launch a formal investigation into freshman Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., according to an official statement from the panel on Thursday afternoon.
What exactly Mullin is being investigated for, however, is still unknown to the public. Update 10:15 a.m. The ethics progress is shrouded in secrecy. Cases are referred to the bipartisan committee by the quasi-independent Office of Congressional Ethics, which has already completed its own inquiry into the matter. Everyone — from OCE board members to Ethics Committee lawmakers to aides for both entities — are bound by strict confidentiality agreements and are notoriously tight-lipped.
In many cases, a member's alleged misconduct is reported in the press prior to an announcement from the committee that the matter is under formal review after the OCE referral; the incident leading to an investigation might have been widely known, or sources might have leaked information to journalists, which was the case earlier Thursday regarding charges against House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington.
But as of Thursday evening, Mullin did not have such a "paper trail" to contextualize the ethics inquiry.
Mullin's office would also not illuminate the matter.
"Congressman Mullin is cooperating with the House Ethics Committee and believes he is in full compliance with all ethics rules," a spokesman said in a statement. "There will be no further comment at this time."
During his campaign for office in 2012, Mullin was the subject of a complaint, which was ultimately dismissed, with the Federal Election Commission. In that case, the FEC looked into whether Mullin made an "excessive number" of redesignations and reattributions of campaign contributions and used resources from his plumbing business to produce and promote campaign videos and print advertisements.
The Ethics Committee is required to provide the public with an update on the investigation by March 24.
Daniel Newhauser contributed to this report.