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McKinley hits Mooney over ethics investigation

Mooney files cease-and-desist over negative ads

A new ad from Congressman David McKinley attacks Congressman Alex Mooney for an recent ethics investigation and for being a former Maryland lawmaker. (Photo from Screengrab)

CHARLESTON — Taking his turn to launch TV ads, Congressman David McKinley is reminding voters of Congressman Alex Mooney’s ethics investigation while Mooney is threatening stations that run the ad.

McKinley, who represents the 1st Congressional District, and Mooney, who represents the 2nd Congressional District, will face each other in the 2022 Republican primary for the new northern 2nd Congressional District that combines the two districts into one.

McKinley released an ad last week on YouTube titled “Definition,” accusing Mooney of being “unethical” and “lacking integrity” as the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics looks into alleged campaign finance violations. The ad also takes a swipe at Mooney’s previous political career as a Maryland state senator.

“Unethical. Lacking integrity. By definition, that’s Alex Mooney,” the narrator said.

The ad highlights issues found by the House’s Office of Congressional Ethics last summer regarding Mooney’s alleged violations of “House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law.”

“Rep. Mooney’s campaign committees reported campaign disbursements that may not be legitimate and verifiable campaign expenditures attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes,” the report stated. “If Rep. Mooney converted campaign funds from his campaign committees to personal use, or if Rep. Mooney’s campaign committees expended funds that were not attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes, then Rep. Mooney may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law.”

According to the OCE investigative report released in October, investigators found that Mooney used campaign donations for personal purchases, trips outside his district, food, his personal car, and more. The OCE accused Mooney of spending more than $40,000 improperly since 2017 while paying back the campaign more than $12,000 once the allegations came to light.

The ad focuses on specific campaign expenditures included in Mooney’s Federal Election Commission disclosures and other media reports, such as CQ Roll Call. These include $1,900 for day-to-day meals at Chick-fil-a; $6,100 for a family trip to a California theme park that Mooney listed as political fundraising and dinner with a contributor.

It was unclear as of Tuesday if the ad was airing on state TV stations.

A search of the Federal Communication Commission’s public inspection file did not find any McKinley ad contracts. In a form letter prepared by Pittsburgh law firm Chalmers and Adams LLC dated Dec. 23 but not addressed to any specific cable system provider, the Mooney campaign issued a cease-and-desist demand for the McKinley ad to be taken down.

“As counsel for Congressman Alex Mooney and his campaign committee, Mooney for Congress 2022, we write to inform you that McKinley for Congress…is running an advertisement on your cable system which contains blatantly false representations about Congressman Mooney that demonstrates a reckless disregard for the truth,” wrote attorney Zachary Wallen.

The Mooney campaign complained the ad provides no sourcing for the accusation that Mooney used campaign donations to fund his California theme park trip. They also accused the McKinley campaign of falsely claiming that Mooney is under federal investigation.

“This claim is categorically false, and tellingly, McKinley does not cite to any source in support of this shocking claim that Congressman Mooney is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other federal law enforcement organization,” Wallen wrote.

The ad itself does claim that Mooney is “now under federal investigation.” It doesn’t claim he is under investigation by the FBI or any other law enforcement agency, though the House Ethics Committee investigation is still ongoing.

McKinley’s ad comes weeks after Mooney launched a TV and YouTube ad attacking McKinley for being one of 13 House Republicans who voted on the $1.2 trillion hard infrastructure bill in November. Mooney has a second ad promoting his endorsement in the race by former President Donald Trump.

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