House Democrats probe commander, team owner Dan Snyder hit with political bias allegations

The congressional investigation of the NFL’s Washington commander has been riddled with allegations of political bias as lobbyists linked to the campaign to oust team owner Dan Snyder raised money for Democratic lawmakers spearheading the probe.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, may have violated House ethics rules by agreeing to attend a fundraiser hosted by lobbying duo Mike and Tom Manatos, the government watchdog said. The fundraiser was seen as an opportunity to huddle with Mr Krishnamoorthi and discuss how to use the congressional investigation to compel Mr Snyder.

“This is problematic under the rules of ethics,” said Kendra Arnold, executive director of the Accountability and Citizens Trust. “A conflict of interest issue arises whenever we see an overlap between congressional responsibilities and political advancement, fundraising or personal financial interests.”

As a senior member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Mr. Krishnamoorthi played a leading role in the investigation of Mr. Snyder and the commander. The House Code of Ethics prohibits members from accepting gifts or campaign contributions directly related to official legislative matters.

Good government groups said Mr Krishnamorti agreed the fundraiser may have violated those guidelines. Therefore, they urged the House Ethics Committee to investigate.

“This appears to be a bribe or illegal gratuity and should be investigated immediately,” said Matt Buckham, founder of the American Accountability Foundation. “A sitting MP accepts campaign donations for political gain – officials can go to jail for such activity.”

As first reported by Politico, the Manatos brothers initially launched a fundraiser with donors last month as donors for an opportunity to discuss with Mr. Krishnamoorthi the team’s ongoing investigation.

“A man in Washington may have found a way out of Snyder [as the team’s owner] My good friend and chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee, Congressman Raja Krishnamorti,” Mike Manatos wrote in an email to attendees. “Tom and I hope you To be able to join us on May 10 as a small group of us meet with Raja to discuss his efforts,”

Mr Krishnamoorthi, who chairs the economic and consumer policy subcommittee of the watchdog group, claimed that he was unaware of the proposals made to donors on his behalf.

“We have not authorized any communications or outreach for this convention and greeting event for Raja’s re-election campaign,” his campaign said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, this event has been canceled.”

The Manatos brothers support this claim. Mike Manatos told Mediate that the outreach for the event was done exclusively by the brothers’ company, Manatos & Manatos, without Mr. Krishnamoorthi’s input.

“In 85 years and three generations of my family’s work with the federal government, when we found a senator or [House] Members who do what we believe are in the best interest of our country and our community, and we are happy to help this policymaker stay in office,” said Mike Manatos.

Mike Manatos and his father Andrew donated $3,000 to Mr Krishnamoorthi’s campaign between 2017 and 2020. They made similar donations to other members of the oversight committee.

Serious questions remain about the incident and Mr. Krishnamoorthi’s conduct. Even without knowledge of the outreach efforts, Mr Krishnamoorthi’s staff had to first agree to a fundraiser.

This poses a moral dilemma given that the Manatos brothers have long spoken out against Mr Snyder.

In 2017, Tom Manatos launched a website dedicated to pushing negative content about Mr. Snyder. Part of the site even encourages visitors to contact local and state elected officials to voice their opposition to building a new stadium for the team, as long as Mr. Snyder is the owner.

“The rules of ethics are broader than most people think,” Mrs Arnold said. “They are designed not only to prevent individuals from profiting from financial gain, but to maintain public confidence in our MPs.”

Even without a breach of ethics rules, the regulator said it was inappropriate for Mr Krishnamurti to continue to be involved in the commander’s investigation.

“When it looks like you might have done something wrong, it’s almost the same as you have done something wrong,” Mrs Arnold said. “Now that the issue has been raised and there may be some conflict, he would be better off not commenting on future topics.”

Complicating matters is the timing of the fundraiser. Last month, Mr. Krishnamoorthi sent a 20-page letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to investigate the team’s unsubstantiated allegations of looting season ticket holders and the National Football League.

The letter was sent shortly before the Manatos brothers began sending out invitations to fundraisers. A person who saw the email invitation told The Washington Times that it specifically referred to Mr. Krishnamoorthi’s letter.

The ethics watchdog said it could be a big problem if Mr Krishnamoorthi agreed to the fundraiser before the letter was sent.

“The timetable is a little bit important,” Mrs Arnold said. “We want to know if sending this letter has anything to do with the promise of the fundraiser.”

Neither the Krishnamoorthi nor the Manatos brothers responded to questions about the planned timeline for the fundraiser.

House Republicans say the fundraising chaos is just the latest example of how the congressional investigation of commanders is political.

“I don’t know if you could pick someone more anti-Snyder to headline the fundraiser,” said one Republican lawmaker, who requested anonymity to discuss ethics issues involving another lawmaker. “It’s definitely going to raise huge red flags.”

“I don’t support the team, but I would say that every Democrat on the oversight committee has to be a die-hard Dallas fan,” the lawmaker added, citing the long-running rivalry between the commanders and the Dallas Cowboys.

House Democrats began investigating the commander and Mr. Snyder last fall after renewed outcry over the NFL’s failure to release a written report on its investigation into the team’s workplace.

House Democrats have received hundreds of thousands of documents from leagues and teams as part of the committee’s investigation. Sexual misconduct allegations against Mr Snyder also surfaced during the investigation, when former employee Tiffany Johnston told MPs the billionaire touched her thigh inappropriately at a work dinner .

Mr Snyder vehemently denied the claims. The NFL is currently conducting a separate investigation into the matter. The Washington commander declined to comment.

Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the top Republican on the oversight committee, last month urged Democratic Chair Carolyn B. Maloney to end the investigation. Mr. Comer lambasted the committee’s Democrats for targeting a particular organization with a “one-sided approach” that relied heavily on the testimony of a disgruntled former employee. The Washington commander declined to comment.

Ms. Maloney, a New York Democrat, joined Mr. Krishnamoorthi in defending the investigation. They said the investigation was not specific to one company, but professional football as a whole.

“In all other cases, when they have to investigate, they release the results,” Mr Krishnamurthy said of the NFL. “In this case, they didn’t, so it sent a strong message to people like me just asking why. Like, ‘Why didn’t that happen? Is this industry functioning properly?

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