Top House Republican must pay US Treasury after misusing taxpayer funds

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Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers must repay the U.S. Treasury more than $7,000 for repeated misconduct and misuse of official funds by her staff.

The House Ethics Committee issued an official "reproval" of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) on Thursday, finding she repeatedly broke House rules regarding the use of official resources. A report laying out her misconduct concluded that she must repay the U.S. Treasury $7,575.95, a conservative estimate of the misuse of funds.

The committee investigated allegations of wrongdoing over the course of more than eight years, from 2008 through 2017. The investigation found Rodgers "provided inappropriate compensation for consultant services from 2012 to 2017," using political funds to cover costs that should have been paid for through official channels. These actions were "in violation of House rules and laws prohibiting unofficial office accounts."

Further, the report found that from 2008 through 2103, Rodgers' congressional office was "governed by sloppy practices, including inconsistent policies and poor record-keeping," which resulted in "the misuse of official resources for campaign or other political purposes."

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Specifically, taxpayer-funded congressional staff in her office "used official resources, including official staff time, congressional office space, and travel funds, for political activities."

As for how much Rodgers was aware of the illegal activity happening in her office, the investigators found that while she "likely did not know the full extent of her offices' misuse of resources, the Committee also determined that she should have been aware that some of the misuse was occurring." (Emphasis in the original report.)

The report admonished Rodgers for her lack of oversight.

"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," the report stated. "Representative Rodgers did not meet that responsibility."

The roughly $7,500 Rodgers must repay the taxpayers is based on "a conservative analysis of the record," but could have been much more. The investigation was hindered by "the poor record-keeping in the congresswoman’s office, and the diffuse, repeated nature of the misconduct at issue."

Rodgers is one of the highest-ranking Republican women in the House, serving as chair of the Republican Caucus from 2013-2019. She won her 2018 reelection race by 10 points.

Rodgers made news earlier this year when she refused to say whether pressuring a foreign leader to interfere in an election is wrong. She joined her Republican colleagues in voting against the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. The House impeached Trump on Wednesday.

The Ethics Committee report was approved by a unanimous vote of all 10 members the committee, chaired by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and composed of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.