Friday, July 15, 2016

Ethics panel rebukes congressman fighting horse abuse for allowing Humane Society lobbyist wife to contact his staff; he says issue killed his bill

Whitfield and wife Connie Harriman Whitfield in his office. (Washington Post, 2010)
Legislation to tighten the rules on treatment of show horses has fallen victim to an ethical breach by a retiring congressman and his wife, a lobbyist for the group pushing the measure, the congressman said yesterday.

The House Ethics Committee reproved Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky's First District for failing to prohibit lobbying contacts between his staff and Connie Harriman Whitfield, a lobbyist for the Humane Society of the United States. The committee said the breach was unintentional, but Whitfield said the horse-show groups that filed the complaint got what they wanted.

"Whitfield's bill did not come up for a vote in the last Congress, despite support from a range of animal and veterinary groups and more than 300 co-sponsors in the House," reports Matthew Daly of The Associated Press. "Whitfield blamed that outcome on the ethics inquiry, which he said was initiated by groups including the Tennessee-based Performance Show Horse Association and the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration" in Shelbyville.

"The committee questioned Whitfield's claim that he didn't even know his wife was a registered lobbyist until October of 2013," Joseph Gerth reports for The Courier-Journal of Louisville. Two months later, Politico did a report on the matter.

Whitfield also led the effort to ban horse slaughter in the U.S. In a prepared statement, he said, "Championing the welfare of animals has been a passion that my wife and I have shared throughout our 25 years of marriage. My commitment to animal protection is the reason I became the target of an ethics complaint." He said the committee did not find that he has given his wife special access to his staff, a more serious charge, but "I made a mistake."

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