Sunday, October 11, 2015

Liberal group asks for House ethics investigation of Reps. Katko, Stefanik

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A liberal group has filed a House ethics complaint against U.S. Reps. John Katko, Elise Stefanik and 21 other Republicans, alleging they violated House ethics rules in order to obtain financial support for the 2016 election.

The American Democracy Legal Fund said the Republicans broke ethics rules by signing a contract with a GOP political group in which they agreed to share political justifications for their legislative priorities.

Katko, R-Camillus, and Stefanik, R-Willsboro, joined fellow New York Reps. Lee Zeldin, R-Long Island, and Daniel Donovan, R-Staten Island, in signing the agreement with the National Republican Congressional Committee, the political group set up to support House Republicans.

Their private agreement with the NRCC was first reported in September by the Washington Post, which obtained a copy of a 14-item contract signed by the group of vulnerable GOP House members. 

The 23 House members had to sign the agreement in order to be accepted into the NRCC's Patriot Program for 2016, which provides financial and campaign support to vulnerable incumbents.

The NRCC spent about $2 million on Katko's campaign last year, and more than $800,000 on Stefanik's campaign, helping each win elected office for the first time against well-funded Democratic opponents.

In its nine-page complaint, The American Democracy Legal Fund said the House members broke ethics rules by agreeing to use official congressional resources to coordinate and detail their legislative strategies and plans with the NRCC.

"As if the disarray in Republican ranks isn't bad enough, now vulnerable Republican House members are literally selling their legislative agendas to a political committee for campaign cash," said Mary Jennings, speaking for American Democracy Legal Fund. 

"Members of Congress are supposed to craft a legislative agenda that benefits their constituents, not auction their vote off to the highest bidder," Jennings said in a statement Thursday.

Stefanik had no immediate comment on the complaint Thursday. But the NRCC said it's clear the ethics filing by the American Democracy Legal Fund is politically motivated.

"This ridiculous complaint is by a partisan complaint factory and completely without merit," said Chris Pack, speaking for the NRCC.

American Democracy Legal Fund is run by Brad Woodhouse, a longtime Democratic activist in Washington, D.C., and former communications director for the Democratic National Committee.

In September, Katko's office confirmed he shared his legislative plan with the NRCC. Spokeswoman Erin O'Connor said it's the same 11-point agenda that Katko made public in February, only weeks after taking office.

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