Duncan facing ethics investigation — apparently over campaign payments to family

The House Ethics Committee is investigating U.S. Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. of Knoxville, though not giving a reason for the probe in a statement Tuesday. But there’s immediate speculation the investigation involves  payment of campaign funds to the congressman’s relatives – most notably his son, John J. Duncan III — that continued through into December of 2017 after media reporting on the matter in July. Duncan says he’s done nothing wrong.

From Michael Collins’ report:

The review was prompted by a referral in January from the nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics. (Note: The rather cryptic official announcement is HERE.)

Duncan, a Knoxville Republican who announced last summer that he would not seek re-election, suggested in a statement that the complaint is political and may be tied to campaign donations.

“After I had decided not to run for re-election, but before I had announced my decision, someone filed an ethics complaint against me,” Duncan said. “Anyone can file such a complaint, and I am not allowed to know who did so.

“However, there is a left-wing group in Washington which has filed many ethics complaints against Republican members of Congress to try to get them bad publicity. This was obviously very political and done by someone who was afraid I was going to run for re-election.”

Duncan said a staffer for the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent watchdog that reviews allegations of misconduct against House members and their staffs, went over his campaign expenditures for the last 10 years.

“Every expenditure was public and reported in my numerous reports to the Federal Election Commission, always filed on time over the years,” he said. “No taxpayer money was involved.

“Every expenditure I have ever made out of my campaign funds has been done to help me politically and to assist in my campaigns. That is what campaign funds are for. I have never taken one penny personally other than to pay for meals when I was eating with campaign workers, supporters, or constituents visiting Washington. This is perfectly legal.”

After going over thousands of expenditures – “almost all of which were very small,” Duncan said – the ethics  office felt it should be up to the ethics committee to decide whether a few larger expenditures were political and allowed to be paid for by campaign funds, Duncan said.

“I can and will assure the committee, if asked to do so, that they were all political and helped me in my campaigns,” Duncan said, adding, “I am confident the Ethics Committee will resolve this matter in my favor.”

Note: Back in July, media reported a total of about $300,000 paid to Duncan’s son by his campaign fund, dating back to 2013. (A post at the time is HERE.) The payments were made to “American Media Strategies,” which was set up by the younger Duncan and which the senior Duncan says handled political dealings matters for him in the 2nd Congressional District. Those payments have continued since, according to Duncan’s campaign financial disclosures, including a total of $10,000 to American Public Strategies during the final quarter of 2017. The last payment of $1,750 is dated Dec. 15.

Duncan’s last report also shows he had a campaign fund balance of $906,970 as of Dec. 31 . Expenditures during the period totaled about $170,000, including the payments to American Strategies

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