When it comes to congressional Republicans and ethics controversies, the past couple of weeks have been a little rough for GOP leaders. Yesterday, as Roll Call reported, the problem got a little worse.
There is “substantial reason to believe” Reps. Pat Fallon, R-Texas, and John Rutherford, R-Fla., both violated the STOCK Act by failing to properly report their stock trades, according to reports by the Office of Congressional Ethics.
The STOCK Act, which Barack Obama signed into law 10 years ago, requires lawmakers to report financial transactions within 45 days of a securities transaction exceeding $1,000. As Roll Call’s report added, “These rules are in place to provide transparency around lawmakers’ trades, and to deter them from using nonpublic information gleaned from their jobs to make trades that enrich themselves.”
The trouble for these two members, of course, is that the Office of Congressional Ethics found they’ve been far from diligent about playing by the rules. Fallon, according to investigators, has “a pattern of late disclosure of reportable transactions, which continued even after he was on notice of his STOCK Act filing obligations.”
The Texan did not cooperate with the probe, and the OCE recommended that the House Ethics Committee subpoena Fallon. The Republican’s lawyer responded that Fallon is a new congressman — he’s currently in his first term — and the reporting missteps were inadvertent.
As for Rutherford, he’s in an unusual position: The Floridian is on the Ethics Committee, which does not generally investigate its own members. Nevertheless, the Office of Congressional Ethics concluded that he, too, has “a pattern of late disclosure of reportable transactions made in [IRA] accounts, which continued even after he was on notice of his STOCK Act filing obligations.”
His lawyer told the panel that the missteps were an “inadvertent oversight.”
A third Republican member, Rep. Chris Jacobs of New York, faced related scrutiny, though as Politico noted, the Office of Congressional Ethics “failed to reach a determination on the allegations against Jacobs after its nonpartisan board reached a tie vote on referring the matter further, but House Ethics said in a statement they would continue to investigate the issue.”
Time will tell what, if anything, comes of these controversies. Ethics Committee examinations are notoriously slow, and it will likely be a while before the public learns of the findings.
But in the meantime, the problem for the GOP is the increasing frequency with which members of the House Republican Conference are confronting ethics questions. It was, for example, just last week when the House Ethics Committee announced an investigation into Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn, his cryptocurrency promotional efforts, and an alleged relationship with a congressional aide.
Around the same time, the Office of Congressional Ethics concluded that Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson allegedly misused campaign funds to pay dues at a private social club in Texas, and Republican Rep. Alex Mooney of West Virginia allegedly enlisted congressional staff to complete personal tasks.
The GOP didn’t need another group of members facing ethics questions, but that’s what the party has ended up with anyway.