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House ethics board sees evidence of abuse by Representative McMorris Rodgers

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) sits during a rehearsal of the Republican response to U.S. President Barack Obama's State of th
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) sits during a rehearsal of the Republican response to U.S. President Barack Obama's State of th

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An independent ethics office has found substantial evidence that Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a member of the House Republican leadership team, may have used congressional funds and other resources for campaign activities.

The unanimous finding by the Office of Congressional Ethics was submitted to the House Ethics Committee in December. Monday was the deadline for making those findings public.

The Ethics Committee, which is not commenting on the report, said in a statement that it would continue reviewing the matter and did not say when it could deliver a decision on whether a violation of House rules occurred.

The board of the Office of Congressional Ethics said in its report on the matter, "There is substantial reason to believe Representative McMorris Rodgers' congressional staff performed ... campaign activities using official resources."

Elliot Berke, an attorney for McMorris Rodgers, said, "We remain confident that, in time, the (Ethics) Committee will dismiss the complaint, which was based on frivolous allegations from a single source."

Berke added, "At no time did they (McMorris Rodgers or her staff) improperly mix official and campaign resources."

McMorris Rodgers chairs the House Republican Conference, a leadership post that puts her in a position to develop legislative initiatives in the Republican-controlled chamber. In January, she was tapped to give the Republican response to Democratic President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech.

In a similar but separate action, the Office of Congressional Ethics in December also unanimously found that freshman Republican Representative Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma may have violated limits on income earned from outside sources.

The panel said that in 2013, Mullin received at least $600,000 in income from Mullin Plumbing Inc and affiliated companies, which is substantially above the $26,955 in outside income allowed under House rules and federal law.

In a statement, Mullin said, "After first getting elected, we set up a meeting with the House Ethics Committee to determine what we needed to do to comply with all House ethics rules regarding our businesses."

Mullin added that he has "followed those recommendations to the letter" and that he will "continue to fight for the right to stay involved in my business."

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis)

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