When Rep. Vance McAllister publicly admitted that money runs politics, the Louisiana Republican probably didn't bank on that information leading to a criminal investigation. Now, a federal watchdog is calling for just that.
The ethics watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said this week that the Department of Justice and the House Ethics Committee should open a criminal investigation after Mr. McAllister said that another House member voted against a bill in exchange for a $1,200 campaign contribution.
"When a member of Congress has publicly proclaimed personal knowledge of members trading votes for campaign contributions, the question is not should DOJ and the Ethics Committee investigate, it is how is it possible that authorities haven't already opened inquiries," said CREW executive director, Melanie Sloan. "What more would it possibly take to prod those charged with enforcing anti-corruption laws to act?"
Last week, the Ouachita (La.) Citizen reported that Mr. McAllister told the audience at the June 5 meeting of the Northeast Chapter of the Society of Louisiana CPAs that a colleague of his encouraged him to vote "no" on a bill in order to get a heft donation from the conservative Heritage Foundation.
"I played dumb and asked him, 'How would you vote?'" Mr. McAllister said to the audience. "He told me, 'Vote no and you will get a $1,200 check from the Heritage Foundation. If you vote yes, you will get a $1,00 check from some environmental impact group."
Mr. McAllister said that he did vote against the bill, but never received the promised check, but his colleague did.
CREW stated that Mr. McAllister refused to identify the colleague in his anecdote, saying he "did not want to put their business out on the street."
After his comments were highlighted in media reports, Mr. McAllister claimed they were "taken completely out of context" and said he had "never cast a vote with the expectation or anticipation of receiving any money for a vote."
In a letter to the DOJ and the House Ethics Committee, CREW wrote that the conduct of Mr. McAllister and his colleague appears to violate federal law and House rules.
"The federal bribery statute prohibits a public official from directly or indirectly corruptly demanding, seeking, receiving, accepting, or agreeing to receive or accept anything of value personally in return for being influence in the performance of any official act," CREW wrote in the letter.
Mr. McAllister has had some ethical challenges of his own. The married, first-term congressman recently announced he would not seek election in November after being caught on film kissing a staffer who was not his wife.
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