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House Ethics Committee Finds Whitfield In Violation

The House Ethics Committee found Rep. Ed Whitfield violated House rules by giving his wife, a registered lobbyist with the Humane Society, special favors and inappropriate access to his staff. “Specifically, the committee finds that Rep. Ed Whitfield failed to prohibit lobbying contacts between his staff and wife, Constance Harriman, and dispensed special privileges to Ms. Harriman, but that he did not violate the rule against improperly using his position for his own interest.”


Because the committee found that he didn’t intentionally violate House rules regarding lobbying by a lawmaker’s spouse, they decided not to sanction nor censure him. The committee did sharply criticize Rep. Whitfield over the access granted to his wife, including meetings between her and her employer, Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), and his staff. Those meetings resulted in the introduction of the PAST Act, which was written in conjunction between Whitfield’s staff and his wife’s employer HSLF and Humane Society of the United States.


The committee stated, “Rep. Whitfield’s staff granted Ms. Harriman unique access to the office, and treated her in a deferential matter, because she was the member’s spouse.”  They continued, “When she registered to lobby for HSLF, and later joined HSLF as a paid lobbyist, her access to Representative Whitfield’s staff, and the staffs’ treatment of her, should have changed accordingly. But by all accounts, nothing changed.”


Whitfield defended his actions by stating he didn’t know his wife was a registered lobbyist until several years into her job. House Ethics Committee members questioned that assertion by Whitfield as his wife was listed as a paid lobbyist with HSLF since 2011.


Whitfield will not seek reelection. Jamie Comer won the Kentucky primary for Rep. Whitfield’s seat, defeating a long-time member of Whitfield’s staff, Michael Pape.

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