The House Ethics Committee rebuked Rep. David B. McKinley on Wednesday for ignoring the panel’s advice to remove his name from an engineering firm he founded decades before he was first elected to Congress.
The committee found the West Virginia Republican had ignored guidance to change the firm’s name, McKinley & Associates, which he founded in the 1981.
McKinley said in a statement that he had received conflicting advice from the Ethics Committee and did not agree with its finding but accepted that the release of the report resolved the issue.
The three-term congressman contacted the panel days after he was elected in 2010 after a corporate consultant questioned whether he could still associate with the business while holding office, according to a report released by the committee Wednesday.
House rules prohibit members from associating with entities that may do business with the federal government and bear their name. The panel advised McKinley that he had to remove his name from the engineering firm.
McKinley’s attorneys wrote in 2010 that changing the firm’s name would damage its name recognition, and that it did work on projects with state and local government that may have partially received federal funding, such as school districts in his home state.
McKinley said in the statement that he had received incorrect advice from a former attorney who said he could either change the name of the company or sell it, and so he chose the latter. The new owners then refused to change the name, McKinley said.
The report shows McKinley sold his stock in the company but refused to change its name, ignoring advice from the panel in a note to associates.
“How absurd is that advice. They expect me to change the name of my company!!! ... I told her that her advice was BS,” McKinley wrote, according to the report.
The formal public “letter of reproval” issued by the Ethics Committee to McKinley is the lowest form of punishment the panel can issue to a member.