This series of articles about U.S. Representative Alexander Xavier Mooney (R-W.V.) began with the very best of intentions. Hell, I didn’t even expect it would turn into a series! I assumed it would be one-and-done.
I am a constituent of West Virginia’s 2nd congressional district, which Mooney has represented (ostensibly) since 2015. I actually voted for the guy three times! I also did cable news for a while; my wife, Lynne Russell, did more than 33,000 newscasts on CNN and CNN Headline News, back when we did real news. So I have some idea of what it takes to communicate effectively on television. When I saw my congressman fumbling on video over and over like Oliver Hardy on acid, I thought I could offer some modest assistance, gratis.
Mooney, recall, sits on the powerful House Financial Services Committee, which is chaired by one of the most corrupt, long-serving members of Congress, Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). The committee also includes three of the six members of “the squad”: Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)—socialists all. Not since the Mụ Giạ Pass has there been such a politically target-rich Commie environment.
A media-savvy Republican would seize every chance to expose and publicly humiliate his leftist colleagues. And then he would post those exchanges on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter for everyone to see.
Mooney, unfortunately, is not media savvy. As I’ve come to understand, Mooney is just not savvy, period.
I first reached out to the congressman as a concerned citizen, not a journalist. I was rebuffed repeatedly, stuck in the netherworld between Mooney’s Martinsburg office and the powers-that-be in D.C. Now, I didn’t take it personally, because I knew I had a platform with this journal that many citizens do not. So I wrote about my concerns—and I’ll admit, I intended to break Mooney’s balls a little bit. I’m an old-school Italian. What did you expect? (For what it’s worth, my editor tells me I’ve shown “almost Christ-like restraint.”)
Again, any media-savvy conservative politician would see a mildly critical story in a national publication and respond in conciliation and with good humor. Politics ain’t for the thin-skinned, after all.
But that isn’t what Mooney did. Instead, he hunkered down. His chief of staff, Mike Hough, ordered his office to refuse any inquiries from me or from this publication. Which seemed strange to me at first. Why go out of your way to shun the media, especially a potentially friendly outlet?
The plot congealed like Mooney’s hair oil when his press flack, Lynn Hatcher, abruptly quit last month. Her replacement, 23-year-old Garrett Huizenga (son of U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, whose congressional office is across the hall from Mooney’s), doesn’t return calls and hasn’t updated the congressman’s website in days.
Then a really funny thing happened.
It turns out, Mooney’s campaign has run up some $49,000 worth of questionable expenses over the years that caught the attention of the Office of Congressional Ethics. There is the embarrassing matter of more than $1,900 in receipts from Chik-fil-A—though to look at Mooney is to know where all that went. There is also the curious question of why the campaign spent $19,000 at St. Zita’s Cupboard, the gift shop at St. James Catholic Church in Charles Town. My first reaction was, “geez, that’s a lot of rosary beads and holy water!” Upon further investigation, however, I learned that the shop sells Visa gift cards, which can be used just about anywhere, for just about any purpose.
The OCE’s investigation is ongoing. As is ours. And we’re not alone among the press.
On Friday, Mike Tony of the Charleston (W.V.) Gazette-Mail laid down the journalistic equivalent of an Arclight strike, detailing other curious expenses, including $3,900 on campaign car repairs. Campaign cars are normally rented or leased. Who buys a campaign car that needs four grand in repairs? Where is the car now? If sold, where did the proceeds go? Whose car is it, exactly?
Then there is the matter of The Smoking Head cigar shop in Charles Town. Who goes to a cigar and “smoking paraphernalia” shop with campaign money to buy “food/beverages”? A hint might be that The Smoking Head is just down the street from Chick-fil-A and on the way to cigar aficionado Mooney’s home over by Saint Zita’s gift shop.
Who knows what revelations may be coming next?
Now, Mooney hasn’t always had ethical questions over his head, but he’s always had a carpetbagging problem. A former Republican state senator in deep-blue Maryland, Mooney’s opportunities for advancement to federal office were slim to none in the Old Line State. He found a more congenial political climate in conservative, rural West Virginia. His absentee chief of staff, Hough, remains a state legislator in Maryland and is, in fact, running for county executive in that state. West Virginians might wonder whose interests are being served—theirs, or Marylanders? Or somebody else’s?
But Mooney, who has the survival instincts of a suddenly illuminated insect, is effectively dodging the rain of journalistic bombs by engaging in the cockroach conga: One, two, three duck! One, two, three, hide! One, two, three, deny!
Holding on to Mooney’s waist is his show-up-when-he-feels-like-it chief of staff, Hough: One, two, three, hush! One, two, three, dodge! One, two, three, stash!
Meanwhile, Mooney’s campaign has just enlisted an expensive, hired political gun, Mark Harris of ColdSpark, whose company motto is “Don’t Bring A Knife To A Gunfight.”
True enough. Not much good against a falling piano, though.
Heads up, Alex.