It’s been a bad fortnight for the Humane Society of the United States on Capitol Hill. First, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle got caught with his pants on fire in front of a U.S. Senate subcommittee. And on Wednesday, the House of Representatives Committee on Ethics voted unanimously to investigate whether Representative Whitfield (R-KY) violated the law by improperly giving his wife Connie Harriman-Whitfield, a registered HSUS lobbyist, privileged access to contacts on Capitol Hill. The committee will also determine whether “special favors” were dispensed to HSUS or the Humane Society Legislative Fund, HSUS’s official lobbying arm.
The Committee’s decision to investigate to Rep. Whitfield, as well as HSUS’s potentially improper access on Capitol Hill, is a welcomed announcement for those who have been following this story since the allegations were first levied. In May 2014, a report released by the Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) said Connie Harriman-Whitfield allegedly contacted her husband’s congressional staff “on numerous occasions,” scheduling “as many as 100 meetings with other congressional offices” through his staff.
The 26-page OCE report also quoted emails exchanged in which Harriman-Whitfield details the legislative advantages of her marital situation: “Neither HSUS or HSLF [the lobbying arm of HSUS] will be able to do well setting up meetings with Republican offices…That is why Ed’s office was so crucial in setting up meetings between Republicans and third parties.” The report also believes that the special access that HSUS had on Capitol Hill may have helped gain support for HSUS-backed legislation. Stay tuned—we’ll be watching for what the investigation turns up.