McCarthy Can’t Pay Consultant With MRA

Posted September 5, 2003 at 6:29pm

House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) has formally rejected a request by Rep. Karen McCarthy (D-Mo.) to charge her personal office the $12,500 she owes a political consultant to overhaul her Washington operation.

The decision by Ney, outlined in a Sept. 4 letter to the Kansas City Democrat, means that McCarthy may be forced to personally pay Fenn & King Communications up to $25,000 that she promised the firm for political and administrative advice back in February.

But House Democrats are very unhappy with Ney’s ruling, which they claim was made without consulting them, and they defend McCarthy on the grounds that Fenn did nothing that the Congressional Management Foundation and other organizations don’t also do on a regular basis.

Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), ranking member on House Administration, plans to meet with Ney soon to ask him to reconsider. “Mr. Larson is going to request a meeting with the chairman to see if that decision can be revisited,” said George Shevlin, minority staff director for the committee.

McCarthy originally attempted to split the $25,000 bill between her re-election committee and the Members’ Representational Allowance allocated to her Congressional office, but a payment from the campaign would have been a violation of House ethics rules. A portion of that money has since been returned to McCarthy’s campaign, according to Matt Nerzig, McCarthy’s outgoing chief of staff and communications director.

A McCarthy aide confirmed the committee’s decision and said his boss was considering her next move. “She’s consulting with her Democratic colleagues on that committee and reviewing her options,” Nerzig said.

Ney’s staff grew concerned when McCarthy was unable to provide a written contract with Fenn, and descriptions of what exactly the consultant did for her were difficult to pin down, said GOP insiders.

The five-term Democrat, with seats on both the Energy and Commerce and Homeland Security committees, has attracted intense scrutiny since a late-night incident on March 20.

McCarthy, after a long bout of drinking in an office near the House floor, fell down an escalator in the Rayburn House Office Building. Needing medical attention, McCarthy missed a key vote on the budget resolution, which Republican leaders passed by only three votes.

McCarthy subsequently took leave from the House in order to attend a month-long alcohol rehabilitation program in Arizona, but has been dogged by controversy ever since, including heavy staff turnover.