Congressman Ed Whitfield defends interaction between his official actions and his wife’s lobbying.
Ethics experts said that the Whitfields could be violating House rules through their joint lobbying for legislation, although these experts cautioned that it isn’t a cut-and-dried case.
“If it were Boeing and they were doing this, it would be a really big deal,” said Melanie Sloan, head of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. While Sloan applauded the Whitfields for disclosing their activities — something that has been one of the major problems in other ethics cases — she said the joint lobbying of members and staffers is troubling.
“I can’t see a flat-out ethics violation, but I can certainly see it creates an appearance problem, and it would seem like the better course would be for them not to be lobbying together; that seems inappropriate to me,” Sloan said.
Veteran ethics lawyer Stanley Brand said the activity does raise questions because lawmakers aren’t supposed to gain personal benefit from their official duties.
“It’s not that easy to get from those general standards to a violation,” Brand said. “There have been cases before where spouses have been registered lobbyists and their husbands or wives are on committees where those companies have interest and that’s never been enough to get you to a violation.”
Whitfield is hardly alone when it comes to lawmakers with relatives who lobby. Dozens of congressional relatives are registered lobbyists, and oftentimes, lawmakers with family ties on issues weigh in on legislative proposals. Congress cracked down on ethics reforms in 2007, banning spouses from lobbying a member’s personal office staff and the lawmaker. Other lawmakers whose relatives have lobbied include: the wife of Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) as a lobbyist at Kraft Foods and Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), whose father — former Rep. Bud Shuster — served as a contract lobbyist.
Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle defended Harriman-Whitfield’s involvement pushing the horse legislation.
“I think sometimes when folks look at issues like this, they nitpick on it as a conflict of interest and I just want to say, No. 1, there is a real difference in working for a coal company or an oil company or any big business, pharmaceutical company and working for a nonprofit organization where there is no financial incentive to gain as an institution,” Pacelle said. “The track record of both Connie and Ed is deep involvement in animal welfare far preceding Connie’s involvement in the Humane Society. She came to the Humane Society because she was already very, very involved on these issues personally.”
Further, Pacelle said that he meets with Whitfield to discuss legislative issues, not Harriman-Whitfield. Pacelle said he didn’t see anything wrong with Whitfield and his wife personally lobbying his colleagues together on the issue of animal cruelty.
“It’d be a shame if our society didn’t allow spouses to advocate for ending poverty in the world, or advancing other core values of our society. I’m not sure what she’s supposed to do, just be mute on these issues with his colleagues,” Pacelle said.
Harriman-Whitfield has a history of advocating against animal cruelty long before joining the Humane Society Legislative Fund in 2007. As assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks for the Department of the Interior under President George H.W. Bush, Harriman-Whitfield is credited with playing a major role in instituting the U.S. and worldwide ban on the elephant ivory trade.
Harriman-Whitfield now serves as senior policy adviser for the Humane Society Legislative Fund and has been engaged in federal lobbying since early 2011. During this two-year period, the HSLF spent $90,000 on in-house lobbying activities, according to Senate lobbying disclosure reports. An outside lobbying firm billed the organization an additional $60,000 so far this year, according to another report.
Whitfield’s annual financial disclosure report does not include his wife’s compensation from the Humane Society.
For his part, Whitfield said his standing with the Humane Society hasn’t always been good, although he provided POLITICO with a long list of legislation he has offered dealing with animal welfare during his time in Congress.
“Sometimes I’ve had a good record with them and sometimes I have not had a good record with them, but I’ve been involved in a multitude of issues, so from my perspective there absolutely is no violation of ethics laws and if someone thinks there is they can file a complaint,” Whitfield said, noting that he has a 62 percent rating in the group’s 2013 midterm score card.
Source: Politico by John Bresnahan and Anna Palmer
Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young (R-FL-13), the longest serving Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, passed away on October 18, 2013. His death was due to complications related to a chronic injury.
A member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, Young was a great legislative ally for animals, including horses. In June 2013 he and Rep. Jim Moran introduced an amendment to the FY14 Ag Appropriations bill to defund Horse Slaughter inspections..
In 2014 he also Co-Sponsored the SAFE Act (H.R. 1094) to illegalize horse slaughter in the U.S. and the PAST Act (H.R. 1518) to protect horses from the cruelty of soring.
Young was the only Republican to sign & endorse Rep. Raul Grijalva’s letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, calling for reforms of the Wild Horse Program.
In May 2013, Young was honored for his animal welfare leadership from the Humane Society of the United States. Upon accepting the award Young said, “I am honored to receive this award and will continue to advocate for the protection of animals as I have throughout my career".
There will be a public funeral for Rep. Young on October 24th in Largo, Florida.
Legislation to End Rampant Cruelty in Tennessee Walking Horse Competitions Endorsed by Animal Welfare Organizations
The Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA support Horse Protection Act amendments that make key reforms including elimination of corrupt industry self-policing scheme.
Animal welfare organizations applaud members of Congress for introducing federal legislation to stop the cruel practice of “soring”—the deliberate infliction of pain to the hooves and legs of horses to produce an artificial high-stepping gait that gains unfair competitive advantage at horse shows. The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act of 2013, H.R. 1518, was introduced by lead sponsors U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., along with Reps Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., and Jim Moran, D-Va., as original cosponsors.
The PAST Act strengthens the Horse Protection Act, originally passed in 1970. The bipartisan bill is endorsed by The Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), along with a broad and unusually diverse coalition of horse industry and veterinary organizations, including the American Horse Council, American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Veterinary Medical Association and Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.
The Horse Protection Act was enacted more than 40 years ago, but the systematic abuse of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds persists. Unscrupulous trainers spend their efforts devising a gruesome array of techniques to make it painful for these gentle creatures to take even a step, so they will lift their front legs extremely high in the unnatural gait known as “the Big Lick,” rewarded by judges at some of this industry’s horse competitions.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, said: “Without these strong amendments to the decades-old Horse Protection Act, ‘Big Lick’ show horses will continue to suffer at the hands of unethical trainers and owners who abuse
horses to win blue ribbons. We’ve upgraded our federal laws in recent years relating to dogfighting and cockfighting, and now it’s time to do so for horse soring.”
Rep. Whitfield said: “Far too often, those involved in showing the Tennessee walking horses have turned a blind eye to abusive trainers, or when they do take action, the penalties are so minor, it does nothing to prevent these barbaric acts. Thisamendment does not cost the federal government any additional money and is essential in helping to put an end to the practice of soring by abusive trainers.”
Rep. Cohen said: “In Tennessee, soring horses is illegal and unacceptable. Those responsible for abusing these horses should be punished severely and banned from the sport. How we treat animals is a direct reflection of our character, both as individuals and a nation. There is no ribbon, no prize nor championship worth the price of one’s humanity.”
Former Sen. Joseph Tydings, D-Md., the author and original sponsor of the Horse Protection Act of 1970, said: “I commend Congressman Whitfield on his leadership in organizing this bipartisan effort to strengthen and improve the Horse Protection Act of 1970, which is long overdue and greatly needed.”
A 2010 USDA Office of Inspector General audit of the agency’s Horse Protection Act enforcement program found that trainers in the industry go to great lengths to evade detection of the cruelty to which they subject their horses, rather than comply with federal law and use humane training methods. The O.I.G. audit also pointed out the serious conflicts of interest in the current system, which allows inspectors to be chosen by the horse industry organizations representing the trainers and putting on the competitions.
Key reforms in H.R. 1518: