Whitfield Ethics Probe to Continue

Whitfield Ethics Probe to Continue

Rep. Ed Whitfield

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) board has voted to continue the probe into the behavior of U.S. Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Kentucky), the principal sponsor of legislation that would amend federal law pertaining to Tennessee Walking Horse training and exhibition.

The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act would amend the Horse Protection Act of 1970, which forbids soring. The PAST Act would forbid trainers from using action devices, including metal chains and performance packages, and would increase federal penalties for anyone who sores a horse. The legislation, which would also require the USDA to assign a licensed inspector if a Tennessee Walking Horse show management indicates its intent to hire one, remains pending.

In July the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics said an ethics complaint had been lodged with the committee against Whitfield in June. 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 about the legislation.

In a statement Ed Whitfield denied any wrongdoing. However, he alleged in the statement that the complaint was filed by 13 PAST Act opponents, including Mike Inman, CEO of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. Inman subsequently said Ed Whitfield's claim concerning the formal complaint filing is untrue.

In his statement, Ed Whitfield said he'd hired a attorney to answer the complaint.

On Nov. 10, the members of the OCE board voted unanimously to continue reviewing the case and to forward it to the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Ethics. In a statement the OCE said the probe would continue on grounds that “there is a substantial reason to believe that Representative Whitfield had lobbying contacts with his wife and permitted his wife to have lobbying contacts with his staff in violation of House rules and standards of conduct.”

The statement also said “the board recommends that the Committee on Ethics further review the allegations concerning the granting of special favors or privileges because there is substantial reason to believe that Representative Whitfield permitted his wife to use his congressional office to advance and facilitate her lobbying activities and the lobbying activities of her employer in violation of House rules and standards of conduct.”

Ed Whitfield's Communications Director Marty Irby said the Congressman is aware that the report had been forwarded to the House Ethics Committee “and (we) have no further comment at this time.”

Inman said he'd not reviewed the OCE statement, “but this is a matter between the committee and Mr. Whitfield.”

Meanwhile, HSUS President Wayne Pacelle said Ed Whitfield's work on animal cruelty issues predates his wife's professional affiliation with the agency.

“From the start of his public service, and more than a decade before his wife became professionally involved with the Humane Society, Congressman Whitfield has been a leader on a wide range of animal welfare legislation, particularly horse protection,” Pacelle said. “None of this work is done for personal benefit, but because of a long-standing and deeply felt passion for stopping animal cruelty.”

The probe remain 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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