McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

March 26, 2014

Mullin responds to House Ethics Committee review extension

McALESTER — District 2 U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville, says he’s the kind of citizen-legislator the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the Constitution.

That’s why he doesn’t agree with the Office of Congressional Ethics report, which has recommended that the House Ethics Committee conduct an investigation  into Mullin’s business affairs.

The House Ethics Committee hasn’t yet decided to conduct a full-scale probe —but didn’t close the matter, either. Originally set to make a decision regarding the issue on Monday, the Ethics Committee instead decided to “extend the Committee’s review of the matter.”

Mullin, who spoke to the New-Capital by phone while preparing to catch a flight, doesn’t think the matter should ever have gone so far.

“Basically, our whole point is can you be a citizen legislator or not? Are we at the point where you have to be a lawyer or a politician to serve in Congress?” Mullin said.

Mullin, whose companies include Mullin Plumbing, Inc., said the company has more than 120 employees.

“I’ve been doing this for 17 years before I got there,” Mullin said of the operation of his plumbing companies before he became a member of Congress.

The matter began when the Office of Congressional Ethics began looking into his business affairs, Mullin said. He called the OCE a group that former Democratic U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put together.

Those conducting the inquiry are looking into the Mullin Plumbing business as well as into his ranch, the Congressman said.

“The Office of Congressional Ethics has decided to look into how  many phone calls I take a week from my company,” he said.

Is the OCE perhaps concerned that he may be using his Congressional phone to conduct private business?

Mullin said there’s no way he’s used a Congressional phone for that purpose.

“I don’t have a Congressional phone or Congressional laptop,” Mullin said. He said he turned those back in as soon as he received them.

Even when conducting Congressional business, Mullin said he uses his personal phone.

“I’ve used my personal phone and iPad because I didn’t want there to be a conflict,” he said.

Mullin said the OCE has also looked into how many hours he spends at his Oklahoma ranch.

He maintains that he checked with the House Ethics Committee soon after his election to Congress in 2012 as to what the House rules would allow him to do and he said he has followed those guidelines.

In its report, the OCE states that Mullin serves as an officer or board member for the plumbing companies. The reports states that on Nov. 26, 2012, then-representative-elect Mullin met with the staff of the Committee on Ethics to discuss his business interests and advertisements for plumbing companies.

The report states that the committee’s “informal, staff-level guidance”regarding the advertisements were that they didn’t need to be removed from circulation if:

• The business didn’t offer fiduciary services.

• The advertisements were filmed prior to Mullin’s winning election to the U.S. House in 2012.

• The advertisements made no reference to his position as a member of Congress. Although the guidance had been that advertisements filmed prior to Mullin’s election could remain in circulation, it did not address whether Mullin could make new advertisements for the company, according to the report.

The Office of Congressional Ethics said in its report that “Mullin regularly hosted a weekly radio show and appeared in numerous radio, television and Internet commercials for Mullin Plumbing, Inc. and affiliated companies.

“He received income from the companies totaling more than $600,000 in 2013,” the Office of Congressional Ethics report alleges.

“If Representative Mullin received  more than $26,955 of outside earned income in 2013, he may have violated House rules and federal law,” the OCE report continues.

“If Representative Mullin was personally involved in endorsing any services pursuant to outside employment, he may have violated House rules and standards of conduct,” the OCE report states of another allegation.

The radio show referred to in the OCE report is called “House Talk with Markwayne Mullin.” However, “House Talk” is not a reference to activities in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rather, it’s billed as a way “to save big bucks by doing home improvement projects yourself or by finding the right contractor for your job. Join Markwayne Mullin of Mullin Plumbing and other contracting experts as they answer your home repair and remodeling questions” an ad included in the ICE report proclaims.

In its report, the OCE states that based on information provided by Mullin, he appeared in 16 separate radio commercials broadcast between January and September 2013, with 12 of the commercials recorded in 2013.

Mullin also provided the OCE with more than 30 television commercials, “but the filming date of most of the commercials is unclear,” according to the OCE report.

The OCE’s recommendation for further action is the one the House Ethics Committee agreed to follow with its Monday decision to extend its review of the matter.

In agreeing to do so, the House Ethics Committee included a disclaimer stating that “the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee.”

Mullin’s attorney has issued a response saying the statement that Mullin received more than $600,000 in income from the companies in 2013 is a gross exaggeration

Mullin likened his situation to that previously faced by U.S. Sen. Dr. Tom Coburn, who is an obstetrician.

“It’s like when they told Sen. Coburn he couldn’t deliver babies,” Mullin said, referring to the Senate Ethics Committee’s decision to tell Coburn in 2005 that he could no longer deliver babies because U.S. senators are supposed to be prohibited from receiving outside income. Coburn responded by delivering the babies free of charge  until 2010, when he said malpractice insurance for the unpaid deliveries had become too expensive for him to continue.

Meanwhile, Mullin maintains he’s simply a citizen who is trying to serve in Congress and follow the rules.

“If I don’t fit the bill of as citizen legislator, who does?”

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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