Anti-'swamp' GOP lawmaker under investigation for using campaign funds on vacations

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The Office of Congressional Ethics determined Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) likely broke campaign finance rules.

The office in charge of reviewing allegations of misconduct for the House of Representatives has determined that Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) improperly used tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, including vacations and meals. Mooney, who campaigned against the "Washington swamp," is reportedly being investigated by the House Ethics Committee.

According to a CQ Roll Call report on Wednesday, the Office of Congressional Ethics — an independent office that reviews alleged misconduct by House members and their staff — found Mooney did not correctly disclose over $40,000 in campaign expenditures and used thousands of dollars in campaign funds for his own food and travel.

The Office's report noted that Mooney told its investigators "that he feels justified in charging meals to the campaign any time there are constituents at the location he happens to choose to eat at that day," meaning that a large portion of his expenses was "prohibited" under campaign finance rules. Both House ethics rules and federal election law bar members from using campaign funds for "personal use."

The matter now goes to the House's Committee on Ethics — a 10-member panel made up of five House Democrats and five House Republicans — which could discipline, fine, or even recommend his expulsion from Congress.

A Mooney spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story, but a campaign spokesperson did tell CQ Roll Call that, "Congressman Mooney is cooperating fully with the inquiry into this matter."

Mooney has represented West Virginia's 2nd District since 2015. His campaign site then and now claims that he "grew up with a deep sense of appreciation for the American ideals of individual freedom and personal responsibility."

In 2018, he tweeted his thanks to the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste for endorsing his re-election. "I am proud to have a conservative voting record that curbs government waste and drains the Washington swamp," he boasted.

From 1999 to 2011, he was a state senator in neighboring Maryland. Over that time, he earned notoriety as the state's leading voice against LGBTQ equality. During debate on a non-discrimination bill, he warned, "If you're not practicing a certain homosexual lifestyle, you're not going to contract that disease," referring to AIDS. "We're promoting an activity that can result in death."

After losing re-election in 2010, he served as Maryland Republican Party chair until 2013.

Then he moved to West Virginia and became a far-right congressman.

Mooney is the latest in an extensive series of House Republicans to run into ethics problems. But the House Republican leadership has done little to hold its members accountable for ethics scandals.

In June, Forbes reported that Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS) had used more than $61,000 in campaign funds to defend himself against an ethics investigation into whether he misused campaign funds and his official office allowance. The Office of Congressional Ethics found "substantial reason to believe" he "converted funds to personal use to pay expenses that were not legitimate and verifiable campaign expenditures attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes," though Palazzo denied wrongdoing.

That matter is also currently being investigated by the House Ethics Committee — as are allegations that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) "engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use" and that Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) "engaged in sexual misconduct." Gaetz has denied wrongdoing; Reed apologized for his behavior, entered treatment for alcohol addiction, and announced he will not seek reelection next year.

In July 2020, Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) admitted to 11 ethics violations and paid a $50,000 fine related to misuse of office funds and violations of campaign finance laws.

In December 2019, the Ethics Committee reprimanded Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and made her reimburse more than $7,500 to the government for improper use of official resources.

All five are still serving in the House Republican Conference.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.