A political watchdog group is calling for an investigation of Louisiana Republican Rep. Vance McAllister, after the congressman made statements suggesting he expected to receive campaign contributions in return for a vote.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) executive director Melanie Sloan said in a statement released Monday that McAllister “made the mistake of publicly voicing what others refuse to admit: members of Congress trade votes for campaign contributions every day.”
The group is requesting a criminal inquiry into McAllister’s statements by the Justice Department as well as a broader investigation of possible Congressional bribery by both the DOJ and the House Ethics Committee.
While speaking to a gathering of CPAs in Louisiana on June 5, McAllister said that he was approached by a colleague who said by voting against a piece of legislation concerning the Bureau of Land Management he could expect to receive a significant donation to his campaign.
“He told me, ‘Vote no and you will get a $1,200 check from the Heritage Foundation. If you vote yes, you will get a $1,000 check from some environmental impact group,'” McAllister said according to a report by The Oachita Citizen. After voting no on the bill, McAllister said he received no donation and inquired with the unnamed colleague, who said that he had received one.
McAllister, best known in recent months for being caught on camera kissing a staffer and then refusing to resign, has defended himself by claiming the remarks were taken out of context, and that he was simply trying to show the thrall that money holds over politics. He never cast a vote based on his anticipation of a particular donation, he said. (RELATED: Report: Congressman caught on video making out with staffer)
There is reason to believe McAllister: A $200 difference is a remarkably small amount of money to throw a vote over, and in any case, the Heritage Foundation is a think tank that does not actually donate to political campaigns. Its sister organization Heritage Action does get involved in campaigns through independent expenditures.
Sloan, however, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that she thinks McAllister really did expose illegal activity, and simply didn’t realize the behavior he was describing was illegal.
“I don’t think he got it when he said it,” Sloan said. She added that regardless of whether McAllister is guilty or not, she thought it would be remarkable for investigators not to at least look into his statements.
“If a member of Congress is getting up there, and talking about [bribery] … it seems to me it’s incumbent on the authorities to at least ask some questions,” she said. “Everybody is just making assumptions about what happened.”
CREW is officially nonpartisan and has in the past called for the resignation of Democrats such as Charlie Rangel and Anthony Weiner in New York. However, the group’s founders have liberal backgrounds (co-founder Norman Eisen worked on President Obama’s transition team) and its annual “CREW’s Most Corrupt” reports typically target about twice as many Republicans as Democrats, which has led to accusations that the group has a partisan bias in its advocacy.
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