Watchdog group wants Justice probe of Vance McAllister bribery claim

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A government watchdog group on Monday called on the Justice Department to investigate a claim by outgoing Rep. Vance McAllister that a House colleague accepted a $1,200 contribution in exchange for voting against legislation.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) also wants the House Ethics Committee to investigate the claim, which was first reported this month in the Ouachita Citizen.

The Louisiana newspaper reported that McAllister, a first-term Republican, told a June 5 meeting of the Northeast Chapter of the Society of Louisiana CPAs that he recently was approached on the House floor by another House member who said he would receive a $1,200 contribution from the Heritage Foundation if he voted against a bill related to the Bureau of Land Management.

McAllister said the member added that if he voted “yes” on the measure, which he didn’t identify, he would receive a $1,000 check from an environmental group.

McAllister said he voted against the bill, anticipating he would receive the contribution but never got the money, the paper said. He said the other member did receive a check for voting against the bill and was surprised to learn McAllister had not.

The Heritage Foundation has denied involvement, saying it doesn't make political contributions in any manner.

The newspaper reported that McAllister said he brought the issue up at the CPA meeting as an example of “how money controls Washington” and how work on Capitol Hill is a “steady cycle of voting for fundraising and money instead of voting for what is right.”

McAllister has refused to identify the colleague and later backtracked on his story, telling the Advertiser newspaper of Lafayette, La., that his remarks had been taken "completely out of context" and that he “never cast a vote with the expectation or anticipation of receiving any money for a vote.”

If McAllister, the unnamed member or any other member of Congress exchanged a vote for a campaign contribution, or voted with the expectation of receiving a campaign contribution in reward, such conduct likely would violate federal law and House rules.

McAllister is no stranger to controversy. In April he announced he wouldn’t seek re-election after he was he was videotaped kissing a female staffer. The conservative, married lawmaker will serve out his term, which expires in early January.

“This is the story of, 'the emperor had no clothes.' Rep. McAllister made the mistake of publicly voicing what others refuse to admit: Members of Congress trade votes for campaign contributions every day,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.

“When a member of Congress has publicly proclaimed personal knowledge of members trading votes for campaign contributions, the question is not 'should [the Justice Department] and the Ethics Committee investigate,' it is 'how is it possible that authorities haven’t already opened inquiries?' ”

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Sean Lengell

Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner