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Oklahoma congressman says ethics review of his business activities is misguided

U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin says the House ethics committee is expected to continue looking at how much money he’s getting from the plumbing company he has operated for 17 years.
by Chris Casteel Modified: March 24, 2014 at 4:00 am •  Published: March 24, 2014

Freshman U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, facing an ethics review of his continued involvement with the plumbing company he has operated for 17 years, says he sought and followed the advice of House legal experts to ensure he didn’t run afoul of the rules.

And Mullin, a Republican whose district includes much of eastern Oklahoma, said the stringent rules and the scrutiny he’s under show how hard it is to serve in Congress and remain tethered to the outside world.

“If you can’t be a plumber, what can you do — other than be a career politician?” Mullin said in an interview.

The House Ethics Committee is expected to announce Monday that it will continue examining Mullin’s financial ties to Mullin Plumbing Co. and related entities.

The Office of Congressional Ethics, an outside advisory board that does not include any members of Congress, investigated Mullin’s activity — after receiving an anonymous tip — and recommended the House Ethics Committee review the allegations.

The ethics office reported:

•Mullin continued making commercials for Mullin Plumbing last year, endorsements that might have violated House rules:

•Mullin received more than $600,000 in income in 2013 from his companies; since the cap on outside earned income is $26,955, Mullin may have violated federal law and House rules;

•Mullin received compensation for serving as an officer or board member of his companies, which may have violated House rules.

Mullin, through a Washington law firm, sent a detailed response disputing each point and saying the whole matter should be handled through ongoing advisory talks — rather than an investigation — to ensure he complies with the rules about outside business activities.

The response says:

•The Office of Congressional Ethics lacks even a basic understanding of how Subchapter S corporations are owned and operated. Nearly all of the $600,000 cited by the office was not income but business expenses that flowed through Mullin, as such expenses do in Subchapter S corporations.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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