Watchdog urges bribery probe of congressman

A watchdog group has called on the Department of Justice and the House Ethics Committee to investigate Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) after the congressman suggested he expected to receive campaign donations for a vote.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on Monday said McAllister or others would have violated federal law and House ruled if he, or any other member, exchanged their vote for the expectation of campaign contributions.

"Trading votes for campaign contributions may violate bribery, illegal gratuity and honest service fraud statutes," the group said in a statement. "House rules also prohibit members from accepting any campaign contribution in exchange for official action."

McAllister has said his words, reported earlier this month, were taken entirely out of context. And he maintains he never cast a vote with the expectation of campaign contributions. 

He said he was trying to illustrate how money controls Washington. 

Earlier this month he told a local Louisiana audience that a fellow unnamed member said McAllister would receive a campaign contribution from the Heritage Foundation if he voted against a certain piece of legislation. 

“I played dumb and asked him, ‘How would you vote?’ He told me, ‘Vote no and you will get a $1,200 check from the Heritage Foundation,” McAllister recounted. “’If you vote yes, you will get a $1,000 check from some environmental impact group.’”

He added: “I voted no, and I didn’t get a Heritage Foundation check but he did. I went back and checked with my friend, ‘I didn’t get a check, man. What were you talking about?’ He told me, ‘Well, I got one. Why didn’t you?’”

When defending himself, McAllister said he was not talking about the Heritage Foundation, a think tank that does not donate to candidates. He declined to name the other House member. 

“This is the story of the emperor had no clothes,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said. “Rep. McAllister made the mistake of publicly voicing what others refuse to admit: members of Congress trade votes for campaign contributions every day." 

McAllister, who was caught on tape kissing a former staffer, has said he is not running for reelection. But he has recently walked those comments back.