Ethics Allegations 'Unfounded,' Whitfield Says

Ethics Allegations 'Unfounded,' Whitfield Says

Whitfield said the complaint has nothing to do with whether or not the PAST Act will move out of the House committee and to the full House floor for a vote before Congress ends session December.


Editor's Note: This article was updated on Aug. 1 to reflect additional information obtained by

U.S. Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Kentucky), the primary sponsor of a measure that would ban the use of performance packages on Tennessee Walking Horses in training and competition, said ethics allegations against him are unfounded and have nothing to do with congressional review of the legislation.

Introduced last year HR 1518, or the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, would amend the Horse Protection Act of 1970 to forbid the use of action devices, including metal chains, stacks, and pads (known as performance packages). In addition, the PAST Act would increase federal penalties for anyone who sores a horse and would require the USDA to assign a licensed inspector if a Tennessee Walking Horse show management indicates its intent to hire one. Whitfield's bill remains pending in the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

In a July 25 written statement, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics indicated it had received an ethics complaint against Whitfield on July 10. The complaint alleges that Whitfield's wife, Constance Harriman Whitfield, a consultant for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), unfairly influenced the congressman regarding the legislation.

“The ethics complaint alleges that I would not have introduced the bill were it not for her, and that she unethically lobbied my office in favor of the PAST Act,” Whitfield said. “None of that is true.”

Stephanie Twining, HSUS spokeswoman, declined to comment on the complaint,

Whitfield said the ethics complaint was filed by 13 PAST Act opponents, including Mike Inman, CEO of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, among others.

“They filed the complaint because they were scared that we were going to pass it (the legislation),” Whitfield opined.

In a July 31 written statement, Inman said Whitfield's claim concerning the formal complaint filing is untrue. “The release from Whitfield's office saying myself or others filed a formal complaint with the House Ethics Committee is blatantly false and I have no idea what motivation they had to produce such a lie,” Inman's statement said.

Further, in a July 30 press release, the Performance Show Horse Association (PSHA) said the organization sent a letter to House Ethics Committee Chairman Representative K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) and to Representative Linda T. Sánchez (D-California), a ranking member of that committee, on Dec. 23, 2013. That letter was sent in response to Whitfield's comments during a November 2013 subcommittee hearing, the release said.

The release states that Conway and Sánchez are members of the House Ethics Committee, but are not representative of the Office of Congressional Ethics, which is where a formal complaint must be filed. That letter was signed by the same 13 individuals cited by Whitfield, the release said. In its letter, the PSHA did allege that Whitfield's wife inappropriately lobbied in support of the PAST Act.

Further, the PSHA release said the signers requested advice “on the proper process and procedures to file a complaint.” But the release states that Conway and Sánchez did not respond to the letter and a formal complaint was never filed.

“The PSHA stands behind the statements in the letter, but it did not intend (to) nor did it file a formal complaint,” the release said.

Meanwhile, Whitfield said he as hired a attorney to answer the complaint.

“The Ethics Committee has their way to handle a complaint when one's filed, (and) I have an attorney representing me,” Whitfield said. 

The committee said in its statement that it will announce its course of action in this matter on or before Nov. 10.

In the meantime, Whitfield said the complaint has nothing to do with whether or not the PAST Act will move out of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and to the full House floor for a vote before Congress ends session December.

“That would be all up to the Republican leadership if they want to bring the bill to the floor,” Whitfield said.

The PAST Act remains pending.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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