The House Ethics Committee on Tuesday announced that it has formed investigative subcommittees to probe whether Reps. Robert E. Andrews, D-N.J., and Don Young, R-Alaska, violated rules by allegedly misusing campaign funds and making false statements.
The committee began reviewing some of Young’s travel expenses in the 111th Congress and later received a referral from the Department of Justice related to the trips in question. Federal investigators examined Young’s role in directing $10 million to a Florida road project that benefited one of his campaign donors. Though Young was not ultimately charged in the case, the F.B.I. released documents that showed the Alaska lawmaker used re-election funds for hunting trips, charter flights and other personal expenses, according to a New York Times report.
Ethics Committee members Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Michael E. Capuano, D-Mass., will serve as chair and ranking member of the subcommittee investigating Young, along with Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, and William Keating, D-Mass.
Young previously faced ethics scrutiny for donations made to his legal defense fund from a dozen corporations owned and operated by the same group of related individuals. The committee concluded in late 2011 that Young had not violated any law, rule or regulation by accepting the donations but revised the wording of the rules governing legal trusts so such related contributions could not be accepted going forward.
“Congressman Young has cooperated with the committee and will continue to do so,” spokesman Mike Anderson said in an email.
Andrews is alleged to have used money from his re-election campaign and a leadership PAC to pay for a family trip to Scotland, to fly his daughter to Los Angeles and to pay for her high school graduation party. The committee has been reviewing the case since April, after receiving the matter from the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.
The OCE reported released in August of last year focused on a trip that Andrews took with his wife and two daughters to attend a wedding in Edinburgh, Scotland, followed by a visit to London. The wedding was for an individual whom Andrews met while working on a presidential campaign in 2003. Though at the time of the wedding the two had not interacted professionally in any capacity for several years, the Andrews for Congress or the Committee to Strengthen America campaign accounts either directly paid for or were later used to reimburse the cost of four business class tickets that totaled about $16,000, a hotel bill of more than $7,000 at the five-star luxury resort The Balmoral, nearly $500 for a wedding gift and more than $2,500 in “petty cash” for various expenses in the United Kingdom.
Andrews told the OCE that he believed the trip to be a legitimate campaign expense because the individual getting married was someone he “tried to cultivate” a relationship with because they might work together professionally in the future. His family repaid the two campaign accounts for the expenses after the trip was disclosed in media reports.
Campaign accounts linked to Andrews were also used to cover the costs of a half dozen trips he took to Los Angeles with his daughter. Though his daughter told a witness she was there to do “some music recording,” Andrews said she was there because she was “old enough to be helpful with some of the things that campaign volunteers usually do.”
Ethics committee members Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and Pedro R. Pierluisi, D-P.R., will serve as chair and ranking member of the subcommittee investigating Andrews, along with Tom Latham, R-Iowa, and Jackie Speier, D-Calif.
Andrews reiterated in a statement on Tuesday that the investigation will confirm that he has “followed all the rules and met all the standards of the House.”
“I will eagerly provide any and all information requested by the Committee in response to the false and politically-motivated, and in some instances anonymous accusations the Committee will review. In the meantime, I will continue to work as hard as I can to serve the interests of my constituents and our country,” Andrews said.