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House Ethics Committee to Review Financial Transactions of Four Congressmen

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The House Ethics Committee on Friday unveiled reports of alleged misconduct and corruption by four congressmen and said it will review all allegations.

The reports conducted by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) and referred to the committee examined GOP representatives Alex Mooney, W.Va., Jim Hagedorn, Minn., and Mike Kelly, Pa., and Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, NJ

The Ethics Department investigates complaints, but only the House Ethics Committee has the power to punish a legislator for misconduct.

The report on Mooney revealed that he had repeatedly spent his campaign for meals at fast-food restaurants such as Taco Bell and Chick-fil-A. The OCE advised the committee to review Mooney’s transactions because “there are substantial reasons to believe” that he has not provided information to the FEC that could indicate that he was using campaign funds for personal purchases.

The survey found Mooney’s “potentially problematic expenses” centered on “small dollar meals, district travel and several major expenses for auto repairs, storage space and travel for staff retreats.”

The report on Mooney revealed that he had repeatedly spent his campaign for meals at fast-food restaurants such as Taco Bell and Chick-fil-A

Only meals purchased while traveling for campaign business or meals for meetings with a clear campaign goal may be charged to a campaign account. Mooney’s purchases were mostly within his district and the amounts charged indicated that the meals were for one person.

Mooney tried to explain away the charges. For example, he justified charging Wingstop $12.84 for his campaign because he said he was returning from picking up campaign mail at a post office and there were voters there at the chicken wing restaurant.

Mooney told the OCE he charges his campaign for meals when he visits voters. Most of his spending on meals came from places like Chick-fil-A, Panera, Taco Bell, and local pizzerias.

‘What do you mean by visits to voters? Do you mean a scheduled meeting?’ the OCE asked Mooney. “Not necessarily, no, as I described before, I do a lot of site visits, I just walk in and say ‘hello,'” he replied.

“Let’s say you go to Chick-Fil-A and charge that to the campaign, the justification for that is that there are voters at the Chick-Fil-A you spoke to?” the OCE replied. ‘Yes. Yes, I had a meeting with voters,” the West Virginia Republican said.

The OCE said Mooney had cooperated with the investigation and had taken corrective action to correct past mistakes.

Mooney also filed suspicious charges for “site visits,” including a three-day stay with his wife and three children at Canaan Valley Resort, a 2.5-hour drive from his home and outside his precinct.

Rep. Kelly, meanwhile, was under investigation for a stock purchase by his wife in Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. on April 29, 2020, a day before the Department of Commerce announced it would step in to help the ailing Butler, Pa. factory.

The OCE found “substantial reason to believe” Kelly’s wife Victoria had bought shares in the steel company based on confidential information received by lawmakers.

Kelly, his wife, his chief of staff and former Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross all refused to cooperate with the investigation.

In early 2020, Ohio-based Cleveland Cliffs, part of which is in Kelly’s County, threatened to close, prompting Kelly and other Ohio lawmakers to lobby the Trump administration to provide the company with additional protections.

A day before Victoria Kelly’s stock purchase, April 28, 2020, Ross called Cleveland-Cliff’s CEO to inform him that his department would take action to help the plant. According to the report, Kelly’s office was notified of the development that same day.

The next day, Victoria Kelly bought between $15,001 and $50,000 in Cleveland-Cliffs stock, described as an “abnormal” purchase because she had liquidated all of her individual shares a year earlier.

She bought the stock for $4.70 a share, but sold it in January for $18.11 a share.

The legislator’s spokesman said his wife made the purchase in 2020 “to show her support for the workers and management of this 100-year-old rock in their hometown.” However, the OCE noted that the pair did not publicly announce the purchase at the time.

Rep.  Kelly, meanwhile, was under investigation for a stock purchase by his wife in Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.  on April 29, 2020

Rep. Kelly, meanwhile, was under investigation for a stock purchase by his wife in Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. on April 29, 2020

Victoria Kelly, left, bought between $15,001 and $50,000 in Cleveland-Cliffs stock, described as an

Victoria Kelly, left, bought between $15,001 and $50,000 in Cleveland-Cliffs stock, described as an “abnormal” purchase because she had liquidated all of her individual shares a year earlier

In Hagedorn's case, the legislator 'maybe' used official means to award contracts to companies owned and controlled by its employees.

In Hagedorn’s case, the legislator ‘maybe’ used official means to award contracts to companies owned and controlled by its employees.

For Malinowski, the OCE found that the New Jersey Democrat was not reporting stock trades he made in 2019 and 2020

For Malinowski, the OCE found that the New Jersey Democrat was not reporting stock trades he made in 2019 and 2020

In Hagedorn’s case, the legislator ‘maybe’ used official means to award contracts to companies owned and controlled by its employees.

Hagedorn may have spent nearly half a million dollars on companies associated with two of its postal workers. The campaign was charged with “unusually high prices” and the house rules prohibit members from contracting with staff members for goods or services.

The OCE also found that Hagedorn’s campaign used a donor’s office space for free or well below market price and made no mention of the use of the space.

For Malinowski, the OCE found that the New Jersey Democrat has not reported any stock trades he made in 2019 and 2020. Malinowski has admitted the misstep, which he said was one of “carelessness” he regretted.

A spokesman for Malinowski told the Washington Post that the stock trades were “made solely by his broker, based on publicly available information.”

Congressman Malinowski has since gone way beyond what is required by law by placing his interests in a qualified blind trust approved by the ethics committee, the spokesman said.

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