The House Ethics Committee voted Thursday to extend its review of alleged campaign expense violations by Rep. Alex Mooney and released a report detailing the allegations—actions that could reverberate in his primary race next year against fellow West Virginia Republican Rep. David McKinley.
The report by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics concluded that Mooney’s campaign reported expenses “that may not be legitimate or verifiable,” including spending for “small-dollar meal expenses” at Chick-fil-A, Panera, Taco Bell, and pizza vendors near his home. Mooney told the OCE he justified such spending because he talked to constituents while getting food.
The report questioned spending on family travel to the Canaan Valley Resort in West Virginia and large expenditures for car repairs and a storage shed. It also pointed to the campaign’s reimbursements to Mooney of over $22,000 in expenses that weren’t itemized, as well as over $17,000 in unitemized spending on gift cards from Mooney’s church, which were then used for purchases at a grocery store.
Mooney said in a statement that OCE’s report showed “the majority of the politically motivated allegations against me were found to lack merit.” He said the remaining allegations involved “legitimate officially-related or campaign expenses at West Virginia businesses or involve campaign expense reporting that is largely technical in nature.”
An ardent backer of Donald Trump, Mooney cited the former president in defending his actions. “Like President Trump and many other conservative leaders, I will continue to fight through the sea of slanted information and politically motivated leaks that have marred my right to a confidential examination of the facts,” he said in the statement.
Mooney faces a competitive primary next year after the West Virginia Legislature, needing to eliminate one of the state’s three current House district because of population losses, approved a new map that put Mooney into a district with McKinley that includes far more of McKinley’s current constituents.
McKinley hasn’t commented yet on Mooney’s ethics case.
The OCE investigated after Mooney’s campaign finances were questioned by the Federal Election Commission, prompting him to file numerous amendments to disclosure reports and attempted to shut down his original campaign committee. The FEC said the committee had to remain open “while a determination is being made on whether to pursue these matters any further.”
Mooney cooperated with the OCE investigation, the report said, but the office was concerned about a pattern of violations of rules against personal use of campaign money and that some violations”remain unaddressed.” It said the Ethics Committee should issue subpoenas to Mooney’s bank and others that refused to provide information to the OCE.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org