MAGA Rep. Accused of Making Staff Drive Hundreds of Miles to Walk His Dog

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty

As a member of Congress, it’s usually not a good sign when an official ethics report is released about you with an entire section devoted to “tasks related to the family dog.”

But that is the situation for Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV), a top ally of Donald Trump in Congress.

On Monday, the Office of Congressional Ethics released a lengthy report that found “substantial reason” to believe Mooney had committed a number of ethical violations while in office—potentially even violations of federal law.

Trump-Backed Lawmaker Ousts GOP Colleague in West Virginia

Among other things, Mooney may have “accepted a free or below-market-value trip to Aruba,” used taxpayer dollars for non-approved purposes, and used staff for campaign work and “personal errands,” according to OCE. On top of that, he may have “withheld, concealed, or falsified” information provided to ethics officials in the course of the investigation.”

Some of the evidence included in the 54-page report, informed by interviews with nine current and former Mooney staffers, paint a damning picture of the congressman’s apparent willingness to use taxpayer-funded resources for himself and his family’s benefit.

Congressional ethics rules are clear that employees can’t perform anything other than “legitimate, official activity” for lawmakers while on the clock—and authorities even suggest that lawmakers reimburse the U.S. Treasury for any personal tasks that staff performs.

But several Mooney staffers said they were required to do a variety of basic and complicated tasks for the family instead of—or in addition to—their official duties, including babysitting Mooney’s children, driving them to and from school, taking care of their dog, and chauffeuring the congressman long distances for personal reasons.

One former staffer said they drove Mooney over 250 miles in one afternoon, taking him from Washington to Richmond, Virginia, for his son’s basketball game, then back to West Virginia. Another staffer drove from their home in northern Virginia to Charles Town, West Virginia, to walk the Mooneys’ dog, Skipper, while the family was away.

Lawmakers and staff also have to abide by strict rules separating their official, taxpayer-funded governing duties from their campaigning and reelection activity. The report details how Mooney staffers planned fundraisers and other campaign events during official work hours.

With the release of the OCE report, the House Ethics Committee will take up a review of Mooney’s conduct and weigh whether it merits formal punishment.

The OCE even managed to take a passing shot at Mooney, who's long faced accusations that he's not a true West Virginian. The OCE noted that Mooney's staff worked to have his wife's inactive medical license in Maryland activated in West Virginia.

"Because Rep. Mooney was not from West Virginia and had not lived in the state prior to his 2014 bid for his congressional seat," the OCE report said, "Dr. Mooney was not licensed to practice medicine in the state."

Luckily for Mooney, however, his messy and expensive primary against Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) is in the rearview mirror. On May 3, Mooney defeated McKinley by more than 20 points, and had been expected to cruise to reelection in a heavily Republican district.

Mooney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The OCE report also states that he did not cooperate with the office’s inquiry.

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