The Office of Congressional Ethics unanimously recommended that the House Ethics Committee investigate Texas Democratic Rep. Silvestre Reyes for inappropriate campaign activity and misuse of campaign funds, the committee announced today.
Reyes is accused in the report of misusing campaign funds to pay for expenses at his daughter’s residence and holding campaign meetings on House property.
Reyes’ refusal to cooperate with the investigation allowed the OCE’s board to draw "a negative inference from that refusal to cooperate."
"The OCE infers that the information Representative Reyes refused to provide, taken together with the factual findings in this referral, supports the conclusion that there is a substantial reason to believe that a violation of House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law occurred," the report says.
According to its website, the Office of Congressional Ethics is "an independent, non-partisan entity charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct against Members, officers, and staff of the United States House of Representatives and, when appropriate, referring matters to the House Committee on Ethics."
The House Ethics Committee received the OCE’s report on August 30.
"A referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such a referral, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee," according to the announcement, which was issued jointly by Committee chair Jo Bonner (R., Ala.) and ranking member Linda T. Sánchez (D., Calif.).
A response letter dated Sept. 17 from Reyes’ lawyers contested the OCE’s findings and said the OCE mistreated Reyes in its investigation.
The OCE "based its review and referral not on any substantial evidence, but rather on a single, conclusory [sic] news article that was traceable to his primary opponent and written toward the end of the campaign," the letter to the House Ethics Committee says.
"This article, especially taken in its context, provided no reasonable basis to believe that Mr. Reyes violated any law or standard of conduct, nor does it support referral to the Committee. OCE erred in referring this matter."
Reyes lost his reelection bid this year in a primary battle with Robert O’Rourke, during which the allegations of misconduct surfaced in a local newspaper.
Reyes’s lawyers argue in the letter that the campaign money under scrutiny went to improve his congressional office in his daughter’s house, where he keeps his office to reduce costs and that Reyes’ treasurer incorrectly recorded the campaign meetings.
The letter also complains that the released report could permanently besmirch Reyes’s reputation.
"Mr. Reyes will leave the Congress in less than four months, creating the possibility that OCE's Report and Findings will be the unrebutted last word on his career," the letter says.
The OCE report recommends that the House Ethics Committee subpoena Reyes in its investigation, which would allow him the opportunity to respond to the accusations.