Whitfield potentially eyeing chairmanship, says current ethics investigation won't hurt chances

08/07/2014 11:32 AM

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, is raising a lot of campaign cash to potentially help him grab a higher position in Congress. But the western Kentucky Republican is also under a House Ethics investigation which he says will not hurt his chances.

While he faces a Democratic challenger in Charles Hatchet, who Whitfield defeated during his race in 2012, the first District Congressman has raised a lot of money that he will likely not have to use all on his own re-election. Whitfield said he will use the money to help other Republican candidates across the country.

Members of Congress, particularly those looking to be recommended as a chairman of a committee, are expected to give some campaign cash to their party to help other candidates. Whitfield told Pure Politics he has already given $550,000 to the party this year alone.

Whitfield noted that the chairmanship will not be available for another two years but did not shy away from his potential interest in the position.

“Obviously, I mean, I would like to be chair of Energy and Commerce,” Whitfield said. “I have enjoyed Congress, I’ve welcomed the honor of serving the people of the first District they have been very kind to me. But in politics, like life, you just have to take it year at a time.”

But Whitfield is currently under investigation in his chamber because of potential conflict of interest dealing with legislation introduced by Whitfield that some say could have been influenced by the lobbying efforts of his wife Connie Harriman-Whitfield, a lobbyist for the Humane Society of the United States.

The legislation in question deals with the treatment of Tennessee walking horses and Whitfield believes the complaints were filed by the Performance Show Horse Association, a group against the legislation.

When asked by Pure Politics if the investigation could hurt his chances at a chairmanship, Whitfield said no because of the motives of the group.

“No, I don’t really think so because it is so obvious that the people who filed the complaint have 53 violations of the federal law that we are trying to strengthen,” Whitfield said.

Whitfield has also recently faced ethical questions after a story about Whitfield and his wife’s relationship to another lobbyist was published by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting which profiled a property deal between the three that could spell ethical trouble.

Whitfield told Pure Politics the article has nothing to do with the complaints in front of the House committee.

As for what is at the center of the ethics complaint, Whitfield told Pure Politics the group’s argument revolves around the idea that he never would have introduced the legislation had he not been convinced to do so by his wife.

“My response is that I have been involved in a lot of animal issues since I was first elected in ’95, I first wrote a letter about the Tennessee walking horse issue in 2004, in 2010—before she was ever involved at all—the department of Agriculture issued a report saying that the Horse Protection Act…was not adequate and was being abused and from that report we introduced the legislation,” Whitfield said. “There’s no evidence what-so-ever that I was not already involved in the issue.


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