Thu July 17, 2014
U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky Had Decade-Long Financial Tie To a Lobbyist
For more than a decade, U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Kentucky, owned a $200,000-piece of West Virginia property with a lobbyist whose clients and employers had business before him in Congress, writes R.G. Dunlop, a reporter from WFPL's Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
Dunlop spent three months delving into Whitfield's relationship with a well-known, national lobbyist and discovered the pair had a longstanding financial partnership.
The co-ownership of a property in the Greenbrier luxury resort raises questions about possible conflicts between Whitfield's role as a lawmaker and the business interests of the lobbyist, Juanita Duggan. Whitfield's wife is also a lobbyist and a partner in the property deal.
Whitfield, who has represented western Kentucky's 1st District since 1994, would not comment for the story. Duggan acknowledged that she owned Lot 26 with Whitfield and his wife, but denied the arrangement was improper.
Six experts on ethics disagreed and said the partnership raises questions of propriety and potentially, legality. Jack Abramoff, a scandal-plagued lobbyist turned reform advocate, said Whitfield and Duggan's business relationship is troublesome.
"It doesn’t look right and it actually is a major reason why Americans are losing faith in their institutions," he said. The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting also reports that the third owner of Lot 26 was Connie Harriman-Whitfield, the congressman's wife.
Connie Harriman-Whitfield also is a registered lobbyist, with the Humane Society of the United States’ Legislative Fund, which has championed at least one controversial bill that Whitfield actively supports. The fund has donated at least $8,000 to Whitfield since 2011, when his wife began lobbying for it.
Harriman Whitfield told KyCIR: “I’m so, so fed up. Why don’t you spend your time on something people actually care about? You’re wasting your time. You’re wasting my time.”
Listen to Dunlop's interview about his story with WFPL's Rick Howlett:
Stay with WFPL and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting for follow-up on this story.