West Virginia GOP Rep. Alex Mooney may have accepted a free or below-market rate family vacation to Aruba on the dime of a company that has ties to his campaign, which likely constituted an impermissible gift, according to the Office of Congressional Ethics.
The House Ethics Committee first opened an investigation into the Trump-backed West Virginia Republican after receiving a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) in December 2021. On Monday, the OCE recommended the Ethics Committee extend its investigation of Mooney and released a 54-page report with new allegations
Not only did Mooney allegedly accept a free trip to stay at the Ritz-Carlton in Aruba with his family, but he is also accused of using a Washington, D.C. home for free lodging and work space and using his House staff’s time for campaign work and personal errands. He also allegedly diverted funds from his Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA) for non-official business, all according to the OCE report.
The OCE also raised questions about a number of campaign expenditures that may have been put to personal use after interviews with former and current staffers.
The new report comes two weeks after Mooney bested Rep. David McKinley, R-W. Va., in a primary between the two sitting lawmakers, prompted to run for the same seat by redistricting.
The Aruba vacation, which was paid for by HSP Direct LLC, a company that has ‘significant financial and personal ties’ to Mooney, according to the OCE, was planned for him and his family by his congressional staff, and Mooney ‘evaded’ the Ethics Committee’s review of the trip.
No photographs of the vacation could be found on the social media accounts of Mooney or his wife Grace.
The OCE also established that Mooney, his family, his congressional staff and his campaign staff used a Capitol Hill house for lodging, workspace and events at no cost. The house was also associated with HSP Direct.
Mooney also ‘routinely diverted official resources and staff time away from his constituents and official duties in favor of his and his family’s personal needs and sometimes for campaign activities,’ the OCE found.
‘Moreover, staff rarely, if ever, were compensated for the substantial time and effort devoted to serving the Mooney family, and at times were forced to absorb costs associated with personal errands or work extra hours to make up for lost time.’
The OCE also established that Mooney used campaign funds to cover groceries for personal use and to cover other family activities.
As the office continued to investigate the claims, Mooney refused to cooperate and may have concealed or falsified information related to the investigation. Lawmakers in the past have been prosecuted for lying to the OCE.
The OCE is a fact-finding, non-partisan office that is not authorized to discipline members or issue subpoenas, which is why they refer investigations to the Ethics Committee, a 10-member panel with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats.
Mooney’s office claimed in a statement Monday that the OCE’s report ‘was tainted from the outset by the OCE’s procedural irregularities and denial of due process.’
Mooney said the Aruba trip had been paid for by a company owned by a ‘long-time family friend’ but that there was no ‘improper connection’ between the gift and any official actions he took. Still, Mooney said he reimbursed the company for ‘more than the value of any gift.’
The statement said that Mooney flatly rejected the allegation of tampering with evidence and accused the OCE of ‘reaching biased conclusions.’
Still, Mooney said he would work in full cooperation with the House Ethics Committee.
This is an excerpt from The Daily Mail.
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