(CNN) – The House Ethics Committee announced Monday it was extending its investigation into allegations that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers violated House rules and federal campaign laws by using official staff to perform political work for her re-election campaign.
McMorris Rodgers is the fourth-ranking House Republican. Viewed as a rising star in a party that has struggled to gain support among women voters, she was tapped by House Speaker John Boehner earlier this year to give the GOP response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.
Along with its announcement, the Ethics Committee released a report by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics outlining the allegations against McMorris Rodgers. It details instances when aides from her congressional office helped her prepare for campaign debates and wrote news releases and speeches specifically for political events. The OCE report also found that an outside campaign consultant who was on McMorris Rodger's political payroll provided services for her office, such as preparing her for events after her election and interviewing candidates for jobs on her official staff.
The report also raises allegations that McMorris Rodgers improperly mixed official funds and campaign money in her race against Rep. Tom Price of Georgia for her leadership post in 2012.
The Ethics Committee did not launch a formal probe of the matter, and it did not set any deadline for any next step, so it's unclear whether the current review will lead to any further action. After OCE sends a report to the Ethics Committee, it has 90 days to review it and state what, if any action, it will take.
A source close to McMorris Rodgers noted that because the OCE report that triggered the ethics review was sent around the Christmas holidays and the committee has spent recent weeks replacing senior staff, it was not surprising that it needed more than 90 days to look at it.
McMorris Rodgers' attorney, Elliot Berke, released a written statement predicting the Ethics Committee would ultimately dismiss the case and saying the initial complaint was based on "frivolous allegations from a single source - a former employee who then discredited himself by admitting to his own improper conduct."
Todd Winer, a former communications aide to McMorris Rodgers who was dismissed by her office, filed a complaint last year with OCE charging that the Washington state Republican had violated House rules about commingling funds for her leadership race. But the more serious allegations in the 32-page OCE report come from the numerous instances it lists where aides in McMorris Rodgers' congressional office traveled to her district for political work and attended the 2012 Republican National convention on official time.
House rules expressly prohibit the use of official resources for any campaign or political purposes. According to the House Ethics manual, any congressional aides who do any campaign work while remaining on an official congressional payroll must keep detailed records.
One e-mail exchange in the report details a debate preparation session that took place in McMorris Rodgers congressional office in the Rayburn House office building in Washington, D.C.
Regarding the 2012 leadership race, House rules do allow members to use money from personal campaign accounts and official office allowances to cover costs incurred in leadership races. But there are restrictions on mixing the two and on the types of activities that can be paid for with the funds.
But Berke's statement maintains, "Neither Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers nor any other staff members were aware of this conduct and countered all of the allegations with the facts: at no time did they improperly mix official and campaign resources. As the record shows, the congresswoman and all other staff members complied with all laws, House rules and standards of conduct."