WASHINGTON, DC – The intrepid The Tennessean Washington Bureau Chief Paul C. Barton is digging deeper and deeper into the actions of PSHA Spokesperson Jeffrey Howard, son of Celebration Chairman David L. Howard; Celebration CEO Mike Inman; and lobbyist Jeff Speaks, key aide to former Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), along with the Directors of PSHA.
Reporter Barton has uncovered Jeffrey Howard and Lobbyist Jeff Speaks attempted to instigate an Ethic Investigation of PAST ACT sponsor Congressman Ed Whitfield by writing a letter on PSHA letterhead last December.
Then Celebration CEO Mike Inman and PSHA Spokesperson Jeffrey Howard tried to “get cute” with Reporter Barton, and didn’t “come clean” when the reporter started asking the questions.
Neither Jeffrey Howard, his father David, or Mike Inman are used to being scrutinized and questioned by a probing investigative reporter.
Reporter Paul C. Barton sniffed the smoke, and then he found the fire.
Now that it has been found, some think the reporter is going to look even harder at the sore Big Lick folks.
No telling what he will find it he does.
This could get real interesting.
Disclosure shows PSHA letter critical of Whitfield
WASHINGTON ““ A Tennessee Walking Horse group that opposes anti-soring legislation wrote to the House Ethics Committee last year alleging Rep. Ed Whitfield, the bill’s lead sponsor, engaged in unethical conduct by shepherding a measure that his wife lobbied for, new disclosures show.
The Performance Show Horse Association of Shelbyville disclosed the contents of the letter as it continued to dispute the Kentucky Republican’s contention, made earlier this week, that it was the source of an ethics “complaint” against him.
Its letter did not meet the requirements for a formal complaint, the group said in a statement. But in the letter, the group’s board members urged the Ethics Committee to examine Whitfield’s actions.
“It is, therefore, our request that the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics investigates these matters and takes action so that our organization, and the thousands of people associated with our industry, can have faith that the legislative process can and does occur in a fair and non-biased manner,” a Dec. 23 letter said.
It also requested that “proper and appropriate disciplinary actions are taken” against Whitfield if the committee finds he has violated ethics standards. Whitfield’s wife, Connie, lobbies for an arm of the Humane Society of the United States, which supports her husband’s bill.
On a different matter, PSHA alleges Whitfield hired Marty Irby, his current press secretary, in exchange for Irby’s promise to become an advocate for the legislation. Irby was formerly president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association, another group opposing Whitfield’s bill.
“These actions by Mr. Whitfield to push a legislative initiative directly connected to his wife’s position as a compensated lobbyist and to recruit and reward a former walking horse industry official for his advocacy of this legislation cannot in any way be actions acceptable to the United States House of Representatives,” the PSHA board also said in the Dec. 23 letter.
Whitfield contends the charges against him are bogus and are part of PSHA’s efforts to make it politically difficult to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act. Until this week, the bill had been rapidly gaining political momentum with 305 cosponsors in the House “” 70 percent of the chamber “” and 57 cosponsors in the 100-member Senate. Former Tennessee Gov. Winfield Dunn, a Republican, has also endorsed it, not to mention dozens of veterinary medicine organizations and horse groups.
In another development, Whitfield said late Thursday afternoon that House Speaker John Boehner “currently refuses” to bring the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act to the floor for a vote.
He also said it was too late under House rules to use a discharge petition to force the bill to the floor. A discharge petition requires 218 signatures from House members, more than half of the body’s membership.
In a statement, Whitfield added: “I am sad that a bill which 70 percent of the House of Representatives support, including 115 Republicans, can’t be brought to a vote. I am particularly frustrated because many horses will continue to be abused on a daily basis, unless the PAST Act becomes law.”
Widely seen as cruel, soring involves using caustic chemicals, chains, special pads and other devices on a walking horse’s legs and hooves to inflict pain and create an artificially high step, referred to as the “Big Lick.”
Irby, Whitfield’s press secretary, denied Thursday his advocacy for the bill was bought with a job offer.
“There has never been any ‘quid pro quo’ and my testimony was not bought,” he said in a statement. “I stand behind my testimony, and want to see the rampant, horrific abuse I have observed since childhood be eradicated permanently.”
Connie Harriman-Whitfield is a “senior policy adviser” for the Humane Society of the United States. PSHA, in its correspondence to the Ethics Committee, described the Humane Society as “the primary advocate against our industry.”
According to the Ethics Committee website, “Special caution must be exercised when the spouse of a member or staff person, or any other immediate family member, is a lobbyist. At a minimum, such an official should not permit the spouse to lobby either him or herself or any of his or her subordinates.”
While Whitfield denies his wife has lobbied him, PSHA told the Ethics Committee: “It is incomprehensible that a registered lobbyist would not engage and discuss in detail the specifics of legislation with that legislation’s sponsor and, as a result, this interaction would seem to be a serious violation of the House rules governing this matter.”
Jeffrey Howard, a member of the PSHA board, said Thursday the “complaint” against Whitfield came not from the December letter but from a referral to the Ethics Committee made by the Office of Congressional Ethics on June 10.
The House adopted a new, two-step process for ethics complaints in 2008. An initial investigation of charges “” which can come from almost any source “” is done by the Office of Congressional Ethics, which is run by appointees not elected officials. The offices decides whether charges are worthy of the Ethics Committee looking at further.
OCE officials would not comment Thursday on what spurred them to look at Whitfield.
But the Ethics Committee, in a statement issued on July 25, said it will make a final decision on Whitfield’s case by Nov. 10.
It emphasized its acceptance of referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics “does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee.”
Contact Paul C. Barton at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @PaulCBarton.