Ethics complaint filed against top Republican on House Ethics Committee


An ethics complaint related to illegal campaign contributions was filed against Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX).

This is awkward.

The top Republican on the House Ethics Committee, Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX), is facing an ethics complaint because of illegal campaign contributions from his own staff, the Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday.

The complaint centers on thousands of dollars Marchant's campaign reimbursed to staffers who work in Marchant's congressional office. According to both election law and House rules, the staffers made contributions to the campaign when they bought office supplies, food, and other items, even if they were reimbursed for those expenses.

The House ethics manual explicitly forbids this type of behavior, as congressional staffers are forbidden from contributing to the campaign of their boss.

Brendan Fischer, a campaign finance expert with the Campaign Legal Center, told the Morning News that the rules against staffers contributing to their boss's campaign are in place for a reason. If no such rule existed, members could pressure their staff to spend their own money on fundraising efforts.

While it may be an honest mistake, Fischer warns that "if there's a pattern ... it might indicate that there's some pressure from above."

According to the Morning News, the Marchant campaign made 18 such reimbursements between 2007 and 2017, including reimbursing Marchant's chief of staff more than $7,500.

Marchant's position of ranking member on the Ethics Committee makes the scandal all the more embarrassing. In the past, he always encouraged those under investigation to cooperate fully.

His campaign spokesperson says Marchant plans on following his own advice, and will cooperate to the "fullest extent possible."

The scandal may be more than just embarrassing. Marchant barely won his reelection race in 2018, squeaking out a mere 3-point victory. Democrats are already looking at Marchant's seat as a target to expand their majority in the House of Representatives in the 2020 election.

The ethics complaint was filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics, which will investigate the matter, and could pass the matter on to the House Ethics Committee.

Marchant joins a growing list of Republicans who have caused themselves legal or ethical problems. David Schweikert (R-AZ) is being investigated by the Ethics Committee for suspected financial improprieties.

And two House Republicans — Reps. Duncan Hunter (CA) and Chris Collins (NY) — are facing separate federal indictments. Both continue to serve while out on bail and awaiting trial.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.