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Whitfield Denies Helping His Wife's Financial Interests in Congress

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Edward Whitfield is facing new allegations he has been using his House seat for family gain and is pushing back against a report that he was using his position to boost his wife's stock portfolio.  

On Nov. 21, 2012, Constance Harriman-Whitfield, the Kentucky Republican's wife, was elected to the board of LaserLock Technologies, Inc., a security technology company that delivers product and document authentication aimed at combating counterfeiting and fraud in health care and other industries.  

Six months after she joined the board, the congressman submitted LaserLock's testimony to a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee convened for a hearing titled, “Securing Our Nation’s Prescription Drug Supply Chain.” LaserLock recommended its technology could be part of the electronic system established under the bill to trace pharmaceuticals through the supply chain.  

According to Whitfield's personal financial disclosure forms for calendar year 2013, his wife had at least $50,000 invested in LaserLock. But the 10-term congressman — recently investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics for coordinating with his wife on as many as a dozen bills on which she is a registered lobbyist — rejected the notion of a conflict of interest and denied his wife's ownership of the stock. During a conversation outside the House chamber Tuesday, Whitfield told CQ Roll Call he introduced the testimony on behalf of the company because they were not witnesses in the hearing, "and my wife did have some involvement with them, but she has no stock in the company and is not involved in it today."  

Republic Report , a project of the nonprofit group Essential Information, first detailed Whitfield's connection to LaserLock on Monday, in an extensive report that stated Harriman-Whitfield was granted stock options valued at approximately $89,568, according to statements filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Whitfield did not report having any stock in the company in his financial disclosures for calendar year 2012.  

Asked about not disclosing his wife's position on LaserLock's board to the subcommittee, Whitfield suggested the fact had slipped his mind. "Well, at the time, I didn't even give that any thought, truthfully," he said. "It was a statement for the record, and they didn't testify and so it was entered into the record."  

Whitfield ranked 127th on CQ Roll Call's most recent Wealth of Congress report. He reported a minimum of $1.88 million in assets, including $1.13 million in investments.  

In September 2012, the House Ethics Committee issued a memo to remind members that beginning Sept. 30, 2012, they were required to report their spouses' periodic financial transactions valued at more than $1,000. In a financial record stamped May 14, 2013, Whitfield reported that his wife had on Feb. 11, 2013, purchased stock valued between $50,001 and $100,001. Under law, members are required to report such transactions within 45 days of being notified.  

LaserLock did not respond to a call or email asking about the situation.  

"When the FDA begins to implement this crucial program, LaserLock is looking forward to participating in pilot projects and public meetings with other industry stakeholders on how to best trace pharmaceuticals through the supply chain," said Michael Sonnenreich, chairman of the company's board in a September 2013 release  celebrating House passage of the bill." LaserLock is uniquely positioned to play a leadership role in designing such a system."  

According to SEC statements for LaserLock, Harriman-Whitfield was selected for the board based on her career in policy and legal work. She served on the board of directors of the Export-Import Bank, and has held high-level positions at the departments of Justice and the Interior. The company noted that during her more than 25 years of legal, public policy, and management experience, Harriman-Whitfield "has worked extensively with Congress, federal agencies, the media, and special interest groups."  

The House Ethics Committee, meanwhile, is continuing its review of a complaint alleging that she lobbied her husband on behalf of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.  

"Well, as you know, all of this is being considered," Whitfield said Tuesday, when asked about the Nov. 10 news that the Ethics Committee would continue its review. "And I was involved in this issue way before she was ever involved in the Humane Society. I wrote letters about it and her involvement was part of a coalition to pass the bill that I had introduced."  

According to the OCE report, Whitfield's staff may have helped arrange up to 100 Capitol Hill meetings for Harriman-Whitfield, though the congressman disagrees with the idea that his wife received any special resources from his staff.  

"Well, we do that for anybody if I am on the bill," he said. "We have a group that's trying to pass the bill and there's nothing wrong with that. We call people and try to pass the bill. As you know we have 310 co-sponsors, 57 U.S. senators."  

Jay Hunter contributed to this report.  Related: Ethics Committee Will Continue Review of Ed Whitfield Roll Call Results Map: Results and District Profiles for Every Seat Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.