Call for Ethics Investigation of Rep. Luke Messer

Congressman Messer Received Donation from Bank Executive Days After Taking Action on Bank’s Behalf

Washington, DC – Non-partisan ethics watchdog American Oversight today called on the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to open an investigation into whether Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) violated House ethics rules by improperly receiving a donation from an Indiana bank executive just days after having acted on the bank’s behalf.

“Few things reek of the DC swamp as much as politicians taking campaign donations in exchange for abusing the powers of their office,” said American Oversight Senior Advisor Melanie Sloan. “The Office of Congressional Ethics needs to investigate whether Congressman Messer violated the law by accepting a campaign contribution shortly after taking official action to benefit a bank.”

Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to Federal Reserve, American Oversight discovered that Congressman Messer sent a private letter on March 17, 2017 to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on behalf of Indiana-based Mutual First Bank asking her to reverse a decision made by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago that limited the bank’s operations. He also asked whether the Fed would “reimburse” Mutual First for some of its costs.

Included with Congressman Messer’s March 17th letter was a March 14th letter Mutual First CFO Christopher Cook sent to the congressman about the issue, including a description of a recent meeting between the two men. On March 31st, just two weeks after the congressman’s letter went out, Cook donated $500 to Congressman Messer’s campaign committee – his first recorded donation in almost a decade.

Federal criminal law bars government officials from accepting illegal gratuities, which includes campaign contributions, in appreciation for official action. In addition, House rules prohibit members of Congress from accepting any campaign contribution linked to official action. Further, the House Ethics Manual advises anyone requesting contributions from those for whom a legislator has done favors that “a decent interval of time should be allowed to lapse so that neither party will feel there is a close connection between the two acts.” Finally, House rules warn members of Congress to avoid exerting improper influence on agency personnel to request particular action.

Sloan continued, “It’s amazing how inexpensive it can be to buy a congressman. At a cost of only $500, Mutual Bank had Congressman Messer raise its concerns with Fed Chair Janet Yellen, going so far as to ask that the Fed reimburse the bank for hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses it incurred due to its own mistake. The people of Indiana deserve a thorough investigation into the congressman’s actions.”

View the documents received by FOIA HERE.

View the complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics HERE.