For more than five years, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ offices exhibited a concerning pattern of using both taxpayer money and unofficial resources inappropriately and an indifference to laws governing the use of those resources, a House Ethics Committee report found Thursday, leading the panel to reprove her and force her to pay the Treasury Department back $7,575.
The Ethics panel found that the Washington Republican provided inappropriate compensation for consultant services from 2012 to 2017. She defrayed the cost of official services she got from the consultants with either political funds or the consultants’ voluntary provision of services, acts that are in violation of House rules because they incorporated unofficial office accounts. Further, Rodgers used official money for consultant services that would have been a violation of rules restricting the use of the office budget, known as the Members’ Representational Allowance, but the funds used to pay consultants were largely paid for by her House leadership office, which is not subject to the same regulations. This is a shortcoming that the committee discovered in leadership offices, and it referred the issue to the chamber’s inspector general.
Jared Powell, a spokesperson for McMorris Rodgers, said the initial complaint started with an unhappy former employee.
“Over the course of six years and four congresses, the Congresswoman and her staff voluntarily cooperated with the Committee in full, as it noted in its report, producing 66,500 pages of documents and submitting to over 30 witness interview requests. We are pleased that the Committee has ended its review and we can finally put this matter behind us,” Powell said in a statement.
“This matter began after a disgruntled former employee raised complaints against the Congresswoman regarding forced campaign activity. She is particularly satisfied that the Committee found no evidence that she ever compelled staff to assist with campaign or other political efforts,” Powell said. “The Committee also determined that many of the allegations raised against her involved areas of uncertainty facing the House community. She hopes this Report helps provide needed guidance to all members. While she may disagree with some of the findings reached by the Committee, she appreciates its work and accepts its ultimate conclusion. This will be the final statement we will make on this matter.”
From 2008 through 2013, Rodgers’ offices were “governed by sloppy practices,” which included inconsistent policies and poor record-keeping. This led to the misuse of official resources for campaign or other political endeavors, the Ethics Committee report states.
“The Committee found that while Representative Rodgers’ staff was not compelled to assist with her campaign, her staff used official resources, including official staff time, congressional office space, and travel funds, for political activities,” the committee wrote.
Rodgers improperly combined official resources with those of her campaign during her successful 2012 race to become House Republican Conference chairwoman in an instance when she distributed an informational packet to other members.
The Ethics Committee noted that many of the improper actions occurred under the supervision of her former chief of staff, Jeremy Deutsch, who was working at the office and did not tell her about most of it, the committee report says. Even so, she heads the office and is ultimately responsible for what happens under her supervision, according to the report.
“Much of the misconduct uncovered during the Committee’s investigation was conducted under the supervision of Representative Rodgers’ then-Chief of Staff, Jeremy Deutsch. Mr. Deutsch was frequently involved in or otherwise had reason to be aware of the misuse of resources,” the report says. “There is no indication Mr. Deutsch brought the bulk of the misconduct to Representative Rodgers’ attention; however, the Committee has long held Members responsible for ensuring their staff follow House rules, laws and other standards of conduct.”
The committee’s report later continues: “It is the Member’s responsibility to ensure that adequate policies are put in place and enforced to prevent her staff from acting contrary to House rules and laws. Representative Rodgers did not meet that responsibility.”
Rodgers used services from three people who considered themselves consultants: Stan Shore, a speech consultant and a leadership consultant. These three employees were paid through a blend of taxpayer money and unofficial resources, absent clear lines of what money was for what particular duty.
“As a result, the Committee found Representative Rodgers (1) used official funds to compensate consultants for impermissible services and expenses, and (2) received voluntary services for official work from consultants and/or compensated consultants for official services in whole or in part from political funds.”