Alex Mooney’s fate is now in the hands of the House Ethics Committee. The nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics late last month transferred its first review of the West Virginia representative’s campaign finances to the full ethics committee. Unlike the OCE, the committee has subpoena power with real teeth.
The House Ethics Committee released a statement Tuesday saying its current investigation of Mooney should be complete sometime in late October.
But there are reports the OCE is gearing up for a new review of Mooney’s alleged ethics violations.
A spokesman for the OCE would neither confirm nor deny a second review is now underway. But Mooney has added to his legal arsenal. In addition to the defense provided by gifted construction lawyer and former Maryland Republican Party colleague Dirk Haire, Mooney’s campaign has apparently retained the Brobdingnagian big bucks services of Robert L. Walker of D.C. powerhouse law firm Wiley Rein.
Walker is a former chief counsel and staff director of the Senate and House ethics committees and a former federal prosecutor.
Wiley Rein would not confirm that Walker has been retained by Mooney. Six phone calls to the firm went unreturned.
Despite the artful stonewalling, American Greatness has confirmed Walker’s role the old-fashioned way: a leak.
American Greatness obtained from an anonymous source an August 10 email to the Washington staff and 2nd district offices in West Virginia identifying Walker as Mooney’s attorney. In the email, chief of staff Michael Hough advises, “If you are asked to be interviewed [by the OCE], you may contact the Congressman’s attorney Rob Walker . . . about the possibility of arranging for [an] attorney.”
Wiley Rein is a major law firm. A retainer alone would cost Mooney’s campaign an easy five figures, plus an hourly rate in the hundreds of dollars. So it isn’t surprising that soon after Mooney’s campaign retained Walker, it sent out an email barrage appealing for donations. Yet the appeal makes no mention of Mooney’s need for expensive counsel—goodness, why would it? Rather, it uses Cuba as a rationale.
Here is part of the letter (with donation links omitted):
Just days after the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion, my mother, Lala “Suarez” Mooney, celebrated her twentieth birthday in a Cuban prison cell.
My grandfather, who was also imprisoned, would lay awake on the floor of his cell at night, trying to block out the screams of prisoner executions.
. . .
Eventually they would escape to America, where she would go on to marry my late father (a Vietnam veteran) and raise their four children in peace and freedom.
Today, my mother inspires in me a deep love and appreciation for America. Because when a murderous regime took over her homeland and turned on its people, she was so thankful she had somewhere to go . . .
But now that “somewhere”—our United States of America—feels like it’s being forced down a very dangerous path . . . The path to socialism.
And my mother knows all too well where that path will end . . .
But it’s not too late—conservative patriots like you and I can still band together and fight back against the radical Left that is pushing us ever closer to socialism.
That’s why I am asking you to make a $20 commitment to help fight back against the socialism taking root in Washington D.C.
. . .
My mother and my father taught me to appreciate and love the freedoms we have in this country and to fight for them.
That’s why I will continue to sound the alarm on the dangers of socialism and fight back against the increasingly radical socialist agenda of today’s Democrat Party.
But I’m going to need your help . . .
Will you join me in fighting back against the radical Left in congress through a donation of $20 or more?
All of that might make sense, were it not for the fact that Mooney unceremoniously dumped a valuable opportunity to visit Miami with the Republican Advisory Team on Cuba to demonstrate the fire and passion he professes in that fundraising letter. Instead, he was out poaching for donors in fellow Representative David McKinley’s (R-W.Va.) district.
No hypocrisy there, exactly. But Mooney may be the greatest practitioner of the old soft shoe since Sammy Davis, Jr.
The House Ethics Committee’s interest in Mooney stems from his misuse of campaign funds for personal expenses.
Among the expenses under scrutiny is $3,946 in repairs to a “campaign car.” As Mike Tony reported in a story for the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette-Mail, the car in question is apparently Mooney’s personal vehicle, a 2005 Chevrolet Tahoe, for which he would be entitled to charge a set mileage fee for specific campaign use, reimbursable by a Mooney for Congress campaign bank account.
A phone call to the owner of Advanced Automobile Authority repair shop in Ranson, West Virginia confirmed that Mooney paid $3,946 for repairs to the Tahoe.
Mooney charged the work to the campaign as repairs to the “campaign car,” even though the campaign did not own the vehicle and could easily have rented or leased a vehicle for far less money.
West Virginia property tax records show that Mooney paid taxes on his Tahoe but did not transfer the title to his campaign. In effect, he received over $3,900 in free repairs on his personal vehicle. Some dour bean counter at the IRS might choose to see that as unreported income.
Looming Questions for the OCE
Assuming the Office of Congressional Ethics has launched a second probe of Mooney’s finances, both in his campaign and in office, here are a few questions investigators might wish to explore:
In August, Mooney made a four-day trip through West Virginia, including a sightseeing tour of Blennerhassett Island, which is outside his district. Who paid for the trip? Did he expense it to his campaign, or did he use his taxpayer-funded members’ representational allowance, which is intended for official business in his district?
During that same trip, Mooney met with Burger King “king” Matt Herridge, supposedly to discuss the “problems of small business” in the state. Did that meeting result in a serendipitous campaign contribution? (We won’t know until the next Federal Election Commission quarterly filing in October.)
Did Mooney do any other fundraising while he was visiting U.S. Representative David McKinley’s district? Recall that due to a population decline, West Virginia will be losing a congressional seat in 2022. Three Republicans will be contending for just two seats.
In the Mooney campaign fundraising letter, the congressman pushes the standard partisan red meat: “Nancy Pelosi knows I won’t be silenced in defending our Constitution and freedoms as Americans. So now I’m the Left’s next target.”
In reality, Mooney made himself a target of ethics investigators with his irresponsible and profligate behavior. Sorry, but he can’t dance his way out of this one—especially with the luminous bullseye now painted on his world-class derriere.