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McMorris Rogers Could Face House Ethics Probe

<p>The top GOP woman in Congress is accused by a former aide of using campaign and official funds improperly in 2012. </p>
Image: Representative Rodgers (R-WA) sits during a rehearsal of the Republican response to U.S. President Obama's State of the Union address, in Washington
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) sits during a rehearsal of the Republican response to U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)JOSHUA ROBERTS / Reuters

The House Ethics Committee is reviewing whether to investigate accusations that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., improperly commingled campaign and official funds.

Sources familiar with the probe say McMorris Rodgers, the highest ranking GOP woman in Congress and this year’s pick to deliver the Republican response to the president’s State of the Union address, was accused by a former aide of using both campaign and federal dollars for promotional materials during her race for House Republican Conference Chair in 2012.

McMorrs Rodgers’ former communications director, Todd Winer, told the Office of Congressional Ethics that the congresswoman used the funds improperly to produce a video and binders about her achievements. One source with knowledge of the inquiry described Winer as a “disgruntled employee” who was “terminated with cause” after his boss won the hotly contested leadership race over Rep. Tom Price of Georgia.

Aides close to McMorris Rodgers say that they consulted multiple times with House authorities to ensure that her use of the funds was permissible.

"We are confident that every activity was compliant with all federal laws, House rules, and Standards of Conduct," spokesman Nate Hodson said. "We are fully cooperating and look forward to seeing this matter dismissed."

If the House Ethics Committee determines that rules were violated, it could establish an investigative subcommittee to probe the matter further.

McMorris Rodgers' attorney, Elliot Berke said in a statement that ethics reviews have become “an unfortunate rite of passage” for members of Congress.

"Such reviews are virtually automatic, and as the Committee always points out, does not indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee,” he said.