December 15, 2020 Ethics, Government, Press Releases

CfA Files Ethics Complaint Against Rep. Dan Crenshaw for Spreading False Information about Congressional Staffer and Refusing to Cooperate with VA Inspector General

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 15, 2020

Contact: Michael Clauw, mclauw@campaignforaccountability.org, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a non-profit watchdog group focused on public accountability, asked the Office of Congressional Ethics (“OCE”) to investigate whether Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), violated House ethics rules when he shared false information with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie about a Democratic House staffer, and then refused to cooperate with an investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) into a sexual assault on that staff member.

Read the complaint here.

CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith stated, “House ethics rules require members to act in a way that ‘reflects creditably on the House.’ If attempting to discredit a congressional staffer who has been sexually assaulted by spreading false information, and then refusing to participate in an OIG investigation – that might reveal his perfidy – does not reflect poorly on the House, what does?”

The OIG’s investigation of the VA’s response to the sexual assault found substantial evidence that, instead of pursuing her assailant, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie and other senior VA officials immediately began trying to discredit the victim, Andrea Goldstein, by claiming falsely that she had filed multiple frivolous sexual harassment complaints during her active duty service in the Navy – and that they were aided and abetted in this effort by Representative Dan Crenshaw.

Representative Crenshaw apparently made these false allegations against Ms. Goldstein at a fundraising event he and Secretary Wilkie attended. The OIG reviewed security logs and determined that Secretary Wilkie departed the fundraiser at 7:17 p.m.  Four minutes later, Secretary Wilkie sent an e-mail to two senior VA officials that directed them to “Ask me in the morning what Congressman Crenshaw said about the Takano staffer whose glamor shot was in the New York Times.” Secretary Wilkie told investigators that he had no idea what the email was about, but he met Representative Crenshaw for a one-on-one breakfast two weeks later – the Secretary’s only one-on-one meeting with a congressperson during the period investigated. After disclosing his conversation with Representative Crenshaw at the fundraising event during an initial interview with the OIG, Secretary Wilkie subsequently refused to participate in a second interview.

Representative Crenshaw and his staff refused to cooperate with the OIG’s investigation and Representative Crenshaw declined the OIG’s request for an interview, likely to avoid either having to admit to his misconduct or issuing denials that would have left him vulnerable to criminal liability for making false statements.

Rule XXIII of the House of Representatives requires all members of the House to conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House.”  In addition, all members of the House “shall adhere to the spirit and the letter of the Rules of the House.” The OIG found substantial evidence that Representative Crenshaw engaged in reprehensible conduct that will otherwise go unpunished, exactly what the rule was intended to address.

Kuppersmith said, “It is shocking that a Member of Congress would defame a fellow Navy veteran and current congressional staffer with false allegations in an effort to frustrate a sexual assault investigation, and that so few of his colleagues have publicly condemned him. Representative Crenshaw’s conduct is a slap in the face to the work done in recent years by Congress, the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and outside activists to combat sexual assault in the military, and society at large. Representative Crenshaw’s actions appear so egregious that the House ethics committee should recommend his expulsion from Congress.

Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.