John Lewis Staffer Under Ethics Inquiry

Chief of staff may have been improperly paid as campaign treasurer

Michael Collins, left, chief of staff for Georgia Rep. John Lewis, center, is under the House Ethics Committee scrutiny. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A probe into whether a longtime aide for Rep. John Lewis was inappropriately paid as his campaign treasurer while also serving as chief of staff has been taken up by the House Ethics Committee, the panel announced Wednesday.

An inquiry by the Office of Congressional Ethics found the Georgia Democrat’s chief of staff, Michael Collins, also made slightly more in outside income as a senior staffer than House rules allow.

The OCE found that Collins had served as campaign treasurer for Lewis’ 2016 re-election campaign from March 2015 to January 2017, a role that involved “fiduciary duties” prohibited by House rules, according to the independent agency. 

The chamber’s rules also don’t allow staff to serve in a fiduciary role for a political organization and cite campaign treasurers specifically as roles for which staff may not be compensated.

The OCE said it found evidence Collins also received compensation from Lewis’ re-election campaign committee through consulting fees.

A letter from Collins’ lawyer called the OCE’s findings “baseless” and said they mischaracterize his role in the campaign. “Mr. Collins served as a voluntary treasurer, as have all previous treasurers for the Campaign Committee,” the letter stated. His lawyer also said Collins had repaid a $295 overpayment he received that was more than he was allowed in outside salary, blaming it on a “minor arithmetic error.”

The Ethics Committee will take up the inquiry but has no further deadlines for a public announcement of the outcome. Contact Rahman at remarahman@cqrollcall.com or follow her on Twitter at @remawriterGet breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.