Watchdog Requests Investigation into Rep. Roger Williams for Abusing Position to Aid Long-Time Donor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 3, 2021
Contact: Michael Clauw, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C –– Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) called for the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate whether Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX) abused his position as a House Financial Services Committee member to influence the outcome of an ongoing bankruptcy case in favor of long-time donor Gary Martin.
CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “Rep. Williams intervened in a pending court action at the request of his longtime donor. This goes well beyond typical constituent service and likely violates House rules.”
At Martin’s request, on June 11, 2020, Rep. Williams called a top official at UMB Bank to try and arrange a call between Martin and the bank’s CEO Marian Kemper. Martin was unhappy that UMB had made a $40 million loan to Diamondback Industries, a company that Martin’s company, Repeat Precisions, had been battling in the courts in a patent case. Rep. Williams made the call, introducing himself to the bank official not just as a member of Congress but also as a member of the House committee with regulatory authority over the bank. The bank official declined the request and reported Rep. Williams’ call to its outside counsel, Kyle Hirsch, who brought the call to the bankruptcy judge’s attention. This led to a series of depositions aimed at revealing whether and to what extent Martin and Repeat had attempted to improperly intervene in the bankruptcy proceeding.
In agreeing to set up the meeting, Rep. Williams claimed he knew nothing about Martin’s anger with the bank or anything about the bankruptcy. Martin testified, however, that he sent talking points and other documents to Rep. Williams through his congressional staff and sat down with the congressman over lunch at Martin’s ranch to share his frustrations. Furthermore, text messages between Rep. Williams and Martin, including one in which the congressman directed Martin to send information to a congressional staffer’s personal email address, undermine Rep. Williams’ claims of ignorance.
After being briefed on the call between the bank official and Rep. Williams, Hirsch, UMB Bank’s outside counsel testified he believed Rep. Williams had referred to his position on the House Financial Services Committee to imply the bank might suffer negative consequences for declining the meeting with Martin.
Rep. Williams’ attempts to intervene in the bankruptcy proceeding appears to be just the latest example of the congressman abusing his position to benefit Martin, who testified that Rep. Williams sets up meetings “whenever I ask him to […] on different deals that I do.” In his testimony, Martin provided several other instances in which Rep. Williams had intervened to assist Martin’s business interests, including a call to the State Department regarding Martin’s effort to obtain a government contract to sell personal protective equipment. In contrast, in his testimony, Rep. Williams denied ever making any other calls on Martin’s behalf.
Federal law prohibits House members from taking any official actions for the prospect of personal gain, for themselves or anyone else and from using federal resources, including congressional staff, for purposes other than that which they were appropriated. By pressuring UMB to take a meeting with one of his top donors for that donor’s personal financial benefit –– and involving one of his House staffers –– Rep. Williams appears to have violated both.
House rules also require all members to conduct themselves at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House. Intervening in a bankruptcy proceeding on a top donor’s behalf, relying on his role as a member of the House Financial Services Committee to influence a bank, misusing official resources for the financial benefit of another, and making statements that are demonstrably untrue throughout his sworn deposition testimony do not reflect creditably on the House.
“It appears that Rep. Williams has regularly abused his position as a member of Congress to advance Gary Martin’s interest,” Kuppersmith continued. “The Office of Congressional Ethics should immediately investigate and refer the matter to the House Ethics Committee for further action.”
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.