GOP Rep. Put Under Investigation For Campaign Cash Trip To Aruba

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Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.), who recently won the primary for his seat meaning he’ll likely get re-elected, is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee over a range of potential corruption, including a trip to Aruba for him and members of his family that a vendor for his campaign (mostly) financially covered.

The Office of Congressional Ethics recommended a further examination of the situation by the ethics committee in the House and concluded that there is “substantial reason to believe that Rep. Mooney accepted impermissible gifts in the form of a trip to Aruba and free lodging and event space.” If Mooney did so, “then he may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law,” the office added. Free lodging and event space in the D.C. area also came from the same Mooney campaign vendor, HSP Direct, which appears to conduct fundraising work for right-wing candidates and groups. Some 20 times between 2015 and 2021, Mooney stayed at an HSP Direct-owned house near the Capitol without paying anything, and members of the West Virginia Congressman’s immediate family have also stayed there. Mooney and his team have also apparently used the residence for campaign work, Congressional work, and events — without apparent cost to the campaign or Congressman.

As for the HSP Direct-funded Aruba trip, that was in March of last year, and “nearly all” expenses directly associated with Mooney and his family’s trip were covered by HSP Direct, per The Washington Post. Apparently, the company spent nearly $11,000 on the outing, covering “private poolside cabanas, guided tours and activities, and at least one banquet,” per the ethics office. Where does the corruption stop with these people? Apparently — according to that report produced by the Office of Congressional Ethics — the trip likely violated House rules covering what gifts members of Congress are allowed to receive. Mooney seemingly paid for a return flight with campaign money — which he wouldn’t be allowed to do under federal law. Mooney personally refused to provide materials related to the trip when contacted by ethics investigators, although the ethics office was able to obtain information on what went down through other means.

“[T]o the extent he claims the gift was permissible under a personal friendship or hospitality exception to the gift rule, those exceptions would not apply here… Instead, it appears it was only after 2020, when Rep. Mooney began paying HSP Direct tens of thousands of dollars for campaign services, that he and his family were invited on such a trip. Based on the foregoing, the Board finds that there is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Mooney accepted impermissible gifts,” per an ethics report.

And apparently, Mooney’s staff members were also sometimes pressured into carrying out personal tasks for the Congressman and his family. “The tasks ranged from babysitting, to automotive repair work on personal vehicles, to assisting Rep. Mooney and his wife with their personal finances and businesses,” according to the office — which is just remarkable. “Staff members were almost never compensated for this work and frequently were required to divert time from campaign or official congressional business to complete these tasks.” Does Mooney think laws don’t apply to him or that becoming a Congressman is supposed to mean you’re a pampered king? Although staff occasionally volunteered for such things, employees “more commonly reported feeling pressure to accede to the Mooney family’s requests or risk angering Rep. Mooney and potentially losing their jobs,” also per the ethics office.