Congressman Louie Gohmert has long had his intellect and judgment questioned. But, until Thursday, no one ever doubted his integrity.
In a complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a left leaning watchdog group, Gohmert is accused of violating House ethics rules by using campaign money to pay for a trip to the United Kingdom to speak to various groups, including the Cambridge Union and members of the British Parliament. In its complaint, the group stated “there is nothing in the House Ethics Manual that would lead any reasonable person to believe that a member can use campaign funds for a trip to and within a foreign country to give speeches to a groups consisting primarily, if not exclusively, of people ineligible to vote for or contribute to the member.”
Gohmert, a former judge, has a long history of colorful remarks, including his claim that John McCain supported Al Qaeda and a warning of the threat posed to the United States by “terror babies.” More recently, Gohmert spearheaded a failed effort to unseat Speaker John Boehner. But CREW’s complaint is the first time that the Texas Republican has been accused of an ethics violation.
Anne Weismann, CREW’s executive director criticized Gohmert (whose last name she repeatedly erroneously pronounced as ending with a silent ‘T’) for what she viewed as a violation of House Ethics Rules in an interview with The Daily Beast. She noted that the trip was different from Barack Obama’s 2008 speech in Berlin or Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign swing through Israel, Poland and the UK because “a world leader speaks on a world stage whereas a state representative does not.” Weismann also backed away from a comparison that the group made of Gohmert’s situation to former Rep. Rob Andrews, who was investigated for using campaign money to go on a family trip to a wedding in Scotland. She simply said that in both cases campaign funds were used for foreign travels and in neither situation was there “a sufficient nexus” to justify the expenditure.
In a statement, Gohmert spokesman Kimberly Willingham told The Daily Beast that “Congressman Gohmert was invited in November to participate in a series of events in England to make political speeches including in London, Cambridge and Oxford. Though most of his talks were political in nature, some might have been arguably official, but he chose the safer route of making it a political trip and so official funds were not used.
“House Ethics prohibits the use of official funds being used for events that are political in nature; therefore, I am not entirely sure what the fuss is about.”