U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield is the subject of a House ethics inquiry that may involve a purported property deal involving his wife and a Washington lobbyist.
The Republican, who represents the 1st District in Western Kentucky, acquired in 2003 an undeveloped homesite in the tony Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, according to a lengthy investigation recently published by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
Whitfield's wife, Connie Harriman-Whitfield, and a lobbyist named Juanita Duggan, who represented clients before the congressman's committee, also were on the $266,800 loan, the center reported.
Duggan's clients donated more than $320,000 to Whitfield's political campaigns since the mid-1990s, according to the center.
House ethics rules generally prohibit gifts to lawmakers. While the rules do not bar joint property ownership by a House member and a lobbyist, ethics experts interviewed by the center's R.G. Dunlop said the matter raises "potentially problematic legal issues, depending on how initial financing and subsequent expenses related to the property were apportioned among Whitfield, his wife and Duggan."
Harriman-Whitfield is herself a lobbyist for the Humane Society of the United States' Legislative Fund, and the congressman has been active in animal issues. The fund also has donated to Whitfield's campaigns. The House Standards of Official Conduct Committee announced Friday that its chairman, Rep. K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and its ranking Democrat, California Rep. Linda Sanchez, "have jointly decided to extend the matter regarding Representative Ed Whitfield, which was transmitted to the committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics on June 10, 2014."
The statement noted that the extension does not indicate a violation has occurred. The next steps will be made public by Nov. 10. The panel does not say what it is investigating specifically.
Whitfield released a statement reacting to the ethics inquiry: "I am disappointed that people with a financial interest in pending legislation have filed a complaint against me for my work on behalf of animals."
posted on: Monday, July 28, 2014 11:01 AM
I'm not one that jumps to conclusions, but that sentence seems a little too dismissive in pointing the finger at others. Time will tell.