House panel: Congressman Silvestre Reyes possibly broke law, used campaign money for daughter's home expenses
An independent House panel, in a report, stated there is 'substantial reason to believe' Texas Rep. Silvestre Reyes violated ethics rules and federal law by conducting campaign meetings on House property and using campaign money to pay expenses for his daughter's residence.
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which is made up of non-lawmakers, has been investigating the out-going Congressman since May.
The OCE report was sent to the member-run House Ethics Committee, which released the findings Wednesday, despite warnings from Reyes' attorneys that it would be inappropriate to release the report in the last weeks of the Congressman's tenure.
The independent panel's report said Reyes refused to cooperate and recommended the ethics committee subpoena him. In a written response, Reyes' lawyers contended the OCE's allegations were "outrageous." They also claimed the OCE refused to show Reyes the evidence against him.
The report states Reyes' 2011 election disclosure forms showed he used $469 in campaign funds for five campaign meetings in the House members' dining room. The report also states that from 2008 to 2012, Reyes' campaign committee paid approximately $13,000 in expenses for his daughter's Washington residence.
Reyes' lawyers wrote the $13,000 were spent on legitimate upkeep of a campaign office inside the Congressman's daughter's home. According to Reyes' filings, the expenses included pest control, Internet, telephone, cable and electricity. His attorneys also wrote that Reyes did not break house rules or the law by having campaign meetings on government property. They said the meetings were simply incorrectly labeled as that on paper work.
The Congressman's attorneys called the allegations offensive. "Having served as a law enforcement officer for over twenty six years, Mr. Reyes has been affronted by the lack of care and responsiveness shown by OCE throughout this review. OCEs initial correspondence even misspelled his name as "sylvestre," Reyes' attorney Karl J. Sandstrom, wrote in the response to the report.
Sandstrom also blasts the report, stating it's based only on a May newspaper article, tipped off, he alleges, by Reyes' primary opponent and now Congressman-Elect Beto O'Rourke.
"He (Reyes) repeatedly asked for the evidence against him that would support the matter's continued pursuit, so that he could respond, but OCE refused to provide it. It appears now that there was no such evidence: OCE's Findings are based entirely on twenty-five pages from Mr. Reyes's publicly filed Federal Election Commission reports."
In the report, the OCE wrote that it had to make a negative inference and use only the election reports because Reyes refused to respond to the allegations or speak with them. "The Board draws a negative inference from that refusal to cooperate. The OCE infers that the information Representative Reyes refused to provide, taken together with the factual findings in this referral, supports the conclusion that there is a substantial reason to believe that a violation of House rules,standards of conduct, and federal law occurred," the Board wrote.
It's unclear what kind of consequences the report will have on Reyes' reputation. "There is some question if in fact Congressman Reyes is a candidate for the Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner position in the second Obama term. I think that would have some impact on whether the Congressman is able to make it through the confirmation process if in fact there are allegations that do have some impact what happen after that. I don't' think it impact the legacy of what the congressman has done," said Richard Pineda, PhD, a Political Communication Researcher and Professor at the University of Texas at El Paso.
STATEMENT FROM ETHICS COMMITTEE
THE COMMITTEE'S REPORT:
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