Ethics panel weighing probe of Rep. Whitfield

The House Ethics Committee on Friday said it considering whether to investigate Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) following a referral to the panel last month.

Whitfield said the referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics pertains to his advocacy for animal welfare legislation.

“I am disappointed that people with a financial interest in pending legislation have filed a complaint against me for my work on behalf of animals,” he said in a statement.

Whitfield declined to give further information about the allegations, saying he would wait until the ethics panel releases further details.

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Whitfield's support for the animal welfare bill has drawn scrutiny because his wife, Connie Harriman-Whitfield, has been a lobbyist for the Humane Society’s Legislative fund since 2011. Whitfield told Politico last month that he had backed the legislation since long before his wife’s employment at the animal welfare group.

In addition to his Humane Society ties, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting last week wrote that Whitfield and his wife invested with a lobbyist in a West Virginia resort property. The couple also took multiple trips paid for by an outside group, the report said.

Whitfield had been the subject of a Change.org petition demanding an Ethics Committee investigation. The petition had 185 signatures as of Friday.

The Kentucky congressman is the chairman of the subcommittee on energy and power on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

This story was corrected at 3:36 p.m. to reflect that the Ethics Committee is reviewing a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics.