McMorris Rodgers, No. 4 House Republican, faces ethics probe
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) rehearses the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address. (Susan Walsh / Associated Press / January 28, 2014)

By Michael A. Memoli
February 6, 2014, 2:50 p.m.

WASHINGTON – The House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that it has extended a preliminary probe into unspecified allegations against Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the fourth-ranking House Republican who recently delivered her party’s official response to the State of the Union address.

The committee’s action does not necessarily indicate that a violation of House rules has occurred, and McMorris Rodgers’ office has denied any wrongdoing. The matter is in the hands of the 10-member ethics panel after the independent Office of Congressional Ethics referred the case in late December.

A source familiar with the probe says it stems from a complaint lodged by a former employee about a possible violation of rules regarding McMorris Rodgers’ financing of her successful bid for the position of chair of the Republican conference.

In a statement, an attorney for the Washington state lawmaker called the referral to the Ethics Committee “an unfortunate rite of passage for many members of Congress.”

The attorney, Elliot Berke, said McMorris Rodgers had fully cooperated with the ethics office inquiry and was already assisting the committee. “We are confident that the committee will ultimately find that the allegations were baseless,” he said.

The former employee, who now works for a Republican congressman, did not respond to a request for comment.

Riva Littman, a spokeswoman for McMorris Rodgers, said the office was “fully cooperating” with the Ethics Committee. “We are confident that every activity was compliant with all federal laws, House rules, and standards of conduct,” she said.

The Ethics Committee said it will announce whether it will take any further action in March.