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
The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade heard that voice today during a hearing on H.R. 2012, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, a bill introduced by Reps. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., to protect horses from pervasive race-day doping and other inhumane practices. (A companion bill, S. 973, is sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.). The legislation would safeguard both the animal and human athletes who participate in the sport, as well as help the racing industry’s reputation recover from bad publicity about cheating and unfair advantages.
Five of the six witnesses who testified before the subcommittee this morning—including a former Minnesota Racing Commissioner, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the founder and director of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, and HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle—spoke eloquently in favor of the bill. They explained that drugging is a serious problem that puts racehorses and jockeys at risk, and puts the integrity of the entire industry, including owners, trainers, and veterinarians, at risk as well. H.R. 2012 is a pro-animal, pro-industry measure that can wipe out the cheating by relying on the USADA, an independent body that has helped root out doping in other professional sports, to oversee and enforce new rules.
The sole opponent of the bill downplayed the existence of doping in horseracing, and argued for the status quo. But it’s clear that the status quo is not working, with an average of 24 horse deaths on racetracks around the country every week. There are 38 pari-mutuel racing jurisdictions in the U.S., with about 100 racetracks, and each state sets up its own rules with respect to medicating of horses, while horses and their trainers routinely move between the states for races. Imagine if the NFL had different rules in each of the 32 professional football stadiums, or the NHL in 30 different hockey arenas? It would be chaos with no national standards or consistency.
Almost all other professional athletes are subject to uniform safety and anti-cheating regulations, whether it’s the NFL, the Olympics, or professional bicycling. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act would require that any racetrack choosing to offer “simulcast” wagering, where the industry finds most of its profits, must first have an agreement with USADA. That agreement would include covering the costs of the anti-doping measures, with no additional cost to taxpayers. The bill calls for stiff penalties for cheating, including a “once and done” lifetime ban for the most severe doping violations, a “three strikes” rule for other serious violations, and suspensions for minor violations. It also bans race-day medication with a two-year phase-in to give the industry time to transition.
The rampant use of both legal and illegal drugs—not to get horses healthy, but to get them to the gate by masking painful injuries—consistently puts injured, sick, and worn out horses on the fast track to terrible injury or death during the race and after. The cheaters in the industry are known to experiment with anything that might give them an edge, including Viagra, blood-doping agents, stimulants, cancer drugs, cocaine, “pig juice,” and last year’s new craze—“frog juice,” an amino acid found naturally in certain species of frogs. “Frog juice” (dermorphin) is 40 times more powerful than morphine and is used to mask an injured horse’s pain. Doping injured horses to get them to race, when coupled with the recent trend of breeding horses for speed rather than durability, contributes to the increase in breakdowns, and to the epidemic of “castoffs” from the tracks who end up in the cruel horse slaughter pipeline.
As Chairman Lee Terry, R-Neb., pointed out at the start of the hearing, horseracing has been around for a long time—maybe almost as long as the deep human relationship with horses has existed. But if the industry continues to discount animal welfare and allow dishonest and misleading practices, it will continue to see its popularity erode. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will create more confidence in the sport of racing and a level playing field for competitors, while creating a safe culture for equine athletes.
HELP BAN PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS FOR RACE HORSES!
Please contact your U.S. Senator and two U.S. Representatives and urge them to cosponsor and support the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act. Click Here to take action!
New federal legislation introduced 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 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.
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. This amendment 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: