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September 8, 2014 at 11:53 AM

Former Cathy McMorris Rodgers aide breaks silence on ethics case

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane

WASHINGTON — The former spokesman for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers who allegedly filed an ethics complaint against her last year broke his silence Monday, alleging the Spokane Republican retaliated against him and claiming her staff may have lied to investigators.

In a four-page email sent to The Seattle Times and other media outlets, Todd Winer said he was interviewed by the House Ethics Committee as recently as last week. He said he expects the committee to move ahead with the case after the midterm elections by convening an investigative subcommittee.

In March, the ethics committee decided not to open a formal case against McMorris Rodgers despite findings by an independent agency, the Office of Congressional Ethics, that there was “substantial merit” to claims she used her office staff to conduct re-election business as well as comingled campaign and official funds.

That decision, however, left open the door to later impaneling an investigative subcommittee to determine whether McMorris Rodgers broke any federal laws or regulations.

Elliott Berke, an attorney for McMorris Rodgers, issued a statement dismissing Winer’s latest allegations.

“We are sorry to see more frivolous allegations and information from the same source. From the beginning the Congresswoman and her staff have fully cooperated with the Ethics Committee and will continue to do so should it have more questions.”

Winer was let go as McMorris Rodgers’ communications director in January 2013. Later that year, he allegedly filed a complaint accusing her of using taxpayer money for campaign activities during her 2013 re-election as well as her successful race for House Republican Conference chairmanship that year.

On Monday, Winer elaborated on some of those claims and made new charges that McMorris Rodgers and her office exposed and defamed him for speaking out.

Winer accused her office of outing him to reporters and depicting him as a disgruntled ex-employee. Winer is not named in the public ethics complaint, and The Seattle Times originally was told his identity by an aide to McMorris Rodgers.

Winer declined to speak by phone, but answered questions by email. After leaving McMorris Rodgers’ office, Winer worked as a spokesman for Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador.  He has since left that job, for reasons he did not give.

“Under the law, you can’t spread to the media things you know to be false about someone with the goal of damaging their reputation,” he said.

Winer also claimed there was a “smoking gun yet to come”concerning whether McMorris Rodgers’ office staff filled out required paperwork in order to switch to campaign work. Winer said McMorris Rodgers’ “brass” told investigators the leave forms were lost.

Winer called that “laughable” because the forms are submitted electronically. Berke refuted that, saying, “leave forms for the Congresswoman have never been filed electronically.”

Comments | More in Congress, U.S. House of Representatives | Topics: cathy mcmorris rodgers, House Ethics Committee

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