GOP Rep. Alex Mooney Investigated for Family Trip to Aruba, Allegedly Asking Staff to Walk His Dog Skipper

·4 min read
Rep. Alex Mooney
Rep. Alex Mooney

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The U.S. House Committee on Ethics is looking into Republican Rep. Alex Mooney of West Virginia for several alleged violations of standards and possibly federal law.

"Rep. Mooney may have accepted a free or below-market-value trip to Aruba, as well as free lodging and event space from a company that provides services to his campaign committee," the Office on Congressional Ethics (OCE) said in a report on the allegations, which notes that if the lawmaker accepted "impermissible gifts" he may have broken House rules, standards of conduct and federal law.

"The evidence gathered in this review shows that Rep. Mooney and his family took a week-long vacation to the Ritz-Carlton in Aruba in early March of 2021 that was paid for by HSPDirect," the OCE said in its report, referring to a direct-mail fundraising agency.

"HSP Direct's payment for the Mooney family's vacation, totaling at least $10,803.65 in travel, lodging, meals, amenities, entertainment, and activities, likely constitutes an impermissible gift under House rules," according to the OCE report.

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Mooney, 50, is backed by former President Donald Trump in his reelection bid, facing Democrat Barry Wendell on Election Day in November.

The OCE report also states that "Mooney may have used official resources, including staff time, for campaign work and personal errands," which could also be against federal law and includes "tasks related to the Mooney family dog."

A section of the report about Mooney's dog Skipper includes instances of the family allegedly asking a former staffer to drive the pet from their home in Charles Town, West Virginia, to his wife's parents' home in Bethesda, Maryland, (a distance of roughly 60 miles) and asking the staffer to "take the dog out for walks and water all the household plants" while the family was out of town.

Another former staffer also "walked Skipper, brought him with her to various places and events, and sometimes stayed overnight at the Mooney's house to watch him," according to the report, which adds that the second staffer "was adamant that she loved Skipper, indicating that some of these tasks may have been voluntary."

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Mooney also allegedly asked members of his staff to take dirty clothes to the dry cleaners whenever he left them on a staffer's office chair and to babysit his young daughter in his office while he went to vote on the House floor or was otherwise busy with work at the office or at his home, according to the report.

According to the House Ethics Manual, "Supervisors should not accept uncompensated personal services from subordinate staff for services the supervisor would usually pay for if there is no connection to legitimate, official activity."

But Mooney's staff "rarely, if ever, were compensated for the substantial time and effort devoted to serving the Mooney family, and at times were forced to absorb costs associated with personal errands or work extra hours to make up for lost time," states the report.

The panel notes that the review of the allegations against Mooney "does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee."

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A rep for Mooney sent a press release to PEOPLE addressing the allegations, calling for the "outright dismissal of the OCE's report and referral," citing what the lawmaker's office calls "procedural improprieties" as well as "rampant factual misrepresentations, evidentiary exaggerations, and plainly wrong legal conclusions in its report."

A portion of the statement regarding the family trip to Aruba says, "There was no improper connection between any gift and any official action by the Congressman. No taxpayer funds were used to pay for this trip. Congressman Mooney will work with the Committee on Ethics to resolve any outstanding questions."

"It should be noted that Rep. Mooney has been and will continue to be in cooperation with the committee," the statement continues. "Congressman Mooney looks forward to working with the Committee on Ethics to resolve these matters."