Ethics investigation heats up for Guam Del. San Nicolas

House panel starts investigative subcommittee to probe allegations about the first-term Democrat

Del. Michael San Nicolas, D-Guam, right, is enveloped in an ethics scandal.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Del. Michael San Nicolas, D-Guam, right, is enveloped in an ethics scandal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted June 12, 2020 at 4:00pm, Updated at 5:57pm

The House Ethics Committee is ramping up its investigation into whether Guam Del. Michael F.Q. San Nicolas had an improper sexual relationship with a staffer in his congressional office and accepted excessive campaign contributions, among other allegations of impropriety.

The ethics panel announced Friday it is opening an investigative subcommittee into the allegations surrounding the first-term Democrat, following a referral by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), an independent, nonpartisan investigative entity in the House.

“This is just a part of the process that we are required to go through in order to disprove the allegations made against us,” San Nicolas said in an emailed statement. “We will continue to cooperate and thank the people for their patience and support during this time.”

The number of times the House Ethics Committee establishes an investigative subcommittee following an OCE referral is relatively limited.

In late 2019, the former campaign chairman for San Nicolas, John Paul Manuel, told congressional investigators at OCE — subject to prosecution if he lied — that San Nicolas accepted $10,000 in unreported cash from a local businessman, Andrew Park, during his bid for Congress. Manuel also said San Nicolas engaged in a sexual relationship with a subordinate on his staff, Jennifer Winn, the congressman’s acting chief of staff.

After several sexual misconduct scandals erupted on Capitol Hill, the House in 2018 prohibited members from engaging in sexual relationships with their staff: “any employee of the House who works under the supervision of the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner, or who is an employee of a committee on which the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner serves.” Married couples are exempt, but San Nicolas is married to Kathryn Santos Ko, with whom he has two children.

A campaign is prohibited from accepting over $100 in cash from a particular source, according to the Federal Election Commission. Additionally, individuals are restricted from giving more than $2,800 to a campaign per election. Park gave San Nicolas $1,000 in 2018 and $500 in 2019, according to FEC records. The Guam Daily Post reported that San Nicolas has refunded Park $9,000.

The subcommittee will also look into whether San Nicolas converted campaign funds for personal use, reported campaign disbursements that may not be legitimate campaign expenditures, omitted or disclosed false information in FEC reports, made false statements to government investigators and tried to interfere in a government investigation.

Tom Rust, a spokesman for the Ethics Committee, had no comment. William Beaman, a spokesperson for OCE, did not respond to a request for comment.

Rep. Grace Meng, a New York Democrat, will chair the investigative subcommittee and Rep. Jackie Walorski, an Indiana Republican, will serve as the ranking member.

Rep. Darren Soto, a Florida Democrat, and Rep. Vicky
Hartzler, a Missouri Republican, will also investigate the matter on the subcommittee.