West Virginia 2nd District Congressman Alex Mooney has run afoul of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).
As CQ Roll Call reports, the OCE has determined that the four-term Republican has spent campaign money on personal expenses and failed to properly disclose campaign expenditures.
“Overall, according to the OCE, ‘there is reason to believe’ lack of proper disclosure ‘has had the effect, whether intended or not, of concealing thousands of dollars of personal use,’” reported the news outlet.
CQ Roll Call reporter Chris Marquette obtained a copy of the OCE report and lays out details in Wednesday’s story.
Part of the investigation focuses on Mooney using campaign funds to pay for meals of a personal nature at Chick-Fil-A, Taco Bell and pizza shops. Campaign money was used for 220 payments of $25 or less at restaurants in West Virginia since 2017.
Roll Call reports Mooney told the OCE that he felt justified in using campaign funds because his stops included “visiting with constituents.” However, the OCE concluded that paying for day-to-day meals with campaign funds “indicate that a large portion fall within the prohibited category.”
The OCE report, according to Roll Call, also found that two trips by Mooney—one to Canaan Valley and one to Smoke Hole Caverns—should not have been paid for with campaign funds.
“The evidence suggests that the trip to Canaan Valley Resort is most appropriately characterized as a multi-night, resort holiday vacation for Rep. Mooney and his family, paid for with campaign funds, that he unsuccessfully attempted to characterize as an official visit during his interview (with the OCE),” the OCE found.
OCE also determined the Smoke Hole trip, where Mooney was accompanied by his daughters, “appears most likely… a personal trip.”
Federal campaign laws and House rules prohibit the use of campaign money for personal expenses. Roll Call reports that overall Mooney paid the campaign back more than $12,000 after the OCE launched its investigation.
However, that is not the end of the story.
The Office of Congressional Ethics, which is a six-member, bipartisan board of private citizens, has voted unanimously to send the case to the House of Representatives Ethics Committee. That committee will conduct its own investigation and determine whether Mooney should be punished.
Mooney campaign spokesman Mark Harris took issue with the report. Here is part of a statement he released.
“The Roll Call article fails to explain key aspects of the leaked Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) report and focuses on inaccurate allegations. Some of these allegations are demonstrably false and are legitimate expenses to local West Virginia businesses. The OCE report specifically rejected many of the partisan allegations, which demonstrated these were perfectly allowed expenses.”
He added that the Congressman is cooperating with the investigation. (Harris’s full statement is posted below.)
At best, the OCE findings show Congressman Mooney did not fully understand the law and rules for maintaining a wall between campaign funds and private expenditures. If that is the case, Mooney’s sloppiness does not speak well of his attention to detail.
At worst, Mooney did know the rules, but went over the line and then made implausible justifications for the spending. That is a more serious matter, and one where he should be held accountable by the Ethics Committee.
*(Campaign spokesman Mark Harris’s full statement.)
“The Roll Call article fails to explain key aspects of the leaked Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) report and focuses on inaccurate allegations. Some of these allegations are demonstrably false and are legitimate expenses to local West Virginia businesses. The OCE report specifically rejected many of the partisan allegations, which demonstrated these were perfectly allowed expenses. Prior to the OCE inquiry Congressman Mooney adopted multiple new procedures, amended past reports to ensure their accuracy and hired a company to ensure full legal compliance and accurate reporting. Congressman Mooney is fully cooperating in this matter. The Congressman will clear up this issue and as always fight for the people of West Virginia and their conservative values.”