Monday, April 06, 2015

Panel probing charges Ky. congressman used post to help his wife's animal-rights lobbying

On Friday the House Ethics Committee announced it has opened a formal investigation about Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield's potential violations of lobbying rules and other laws, James R. Carroll writes for The Courier-Journal. The Ethics Committee established a four-member subcommittee, which will look into "allegations that (Whitfield) failed to prohibit lobbying contacts between his staff and his wife (Connie Harriman-Whitfiled), improperly used his official position for the beneficial interest of himself or his wife and dispensed special favors or privileges to either his wife, the Human Society Legislative Fund or the Humane Society of the United States," the panel's announcement said.

In a statement Whitfield said, "The allegation that my wife lobbied my office or my staff to convince me to introduce and pass the legislation is absurd. This is an issue I have followed for many years."

Since 2011, Whitfield's wife has been a registered lobbyist with the Humane Society Legislative Fund, a unite of the Humane Society of the U.S., Carroll writes. The report stated that there is substantial reason to believe that Whitfield not only allowed his wife to use his congressional office to assist her lobbing activities but also that he met with her and other lawmakers to talk about legislation she was working on. "In all, a dozen bills were involved, dealing with issues including the abuse of Tennessee Walking Horses, shutting down puppy mills and protecting the great apes," Carroll reports.

"Despite being on notice of the potential ethics issues, Representative Whitfield's staff continued to have contacts with Representative Whitfield's wife related to her lobbying," the board report said. However, Human Society President Wayne Pacelle said that more than 10 years before Whitfield's wife  became professionally involved with the Human Society, Congressman Whitfield was already a leader in animal welfare legislation, especially horse protection."

The investigative subcommittee will be chaired by Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Texas, and also include Florida Rep. Ted Deutch, Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., and John Carney, D-Del. (Read more)

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