Mooney opens legal expense fund to pay costs from congressional investigations

West Virginia Republican has spent more than $136K in relation to the ethics probes

Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., is seen outside the U.S. Capitol as the House voted to pass the The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act on Thursday, January 13, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., is seen outside the U.S. Capitol as the House voted to pass the The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act on Thursday, January 13, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted February 1, 2022 at 3:38pm, Updated at 4:48pm

Rep. Alex X. Mooney opened a legal expense fund to pay legal bills stemming from congressional investigations into him, according to a filing with the Legislative Resource Center.

“It is the desire of the Trustor (Mooney) to provide a proper means to accepting funds and making expenditures for the sole purpose of defraying the legal costs that have been and will be incurred in connection with Congressional investigation(s) of matters pertaining to his official duties and position in Congress, and matters bearing on his reputation or fitness for office,” the document says.

The West Virginia Republican is facing ethics scrutiny over whether he misused campaign funds for personal use and failed to properly report expenditures to the Federal Election Commission. The Office of Congressional Ethics produced a report detailing its findings and the House Ethics Committee is currently investigating the matter.

The Alex Mooney Legal Expense Trust was established on Dec. 14, 2021, and lists Howard Ehrlich — who has in the past contributed to Mooney’s campaign — as trustee. A Dec. 13 letter from the House Ethics panel to Mooney approving the trust says Mooney has not had any business relationship with Ehrlich — according to Ehrlich — since 2010 and that Ehrlich said he will refrain from contributing to Mooney while serving as trustee. The beneficiary of a legal expense fund is required to have no family, business or employment relationship with the trustee within the last two years.

The letter notes Mooney has provided the committee with detailed invoices totaling $136,768 of campaign funds he spent in connection with the congressional inquiries. The Ethics Committee approved Mooney’s request to repay his campaign up to $136,768 using money raised from the legal expense fund. 

Members are allowed to open a legal expense fund when legal costs arise in connection with their candidacy for or election to federal office, official duties in Congress, a criminal prosecution, a civil matter bearing on the individual’s reputation or fitness for office, or a matter before the Ethics Committee. Over the course of a calendar year, an individual or an organization cannot give more than $5,000 to the fund. It cannot accept contributions from a registered lobbyist, lobbying firm or an agent of a foreign principal.

“Representative Mooney opened a legal fund and has followed all the applicable laws including authorization from the ethics committee,” Mark Harris, a campaign spokesman, said in response to a request for comment.