The nonpartisan entity tasked with reviewing two ethics allegations involving Minnesota Rep. Jim Hagedorn found "substantial reason to believe" the claims.
The House Committee on Ethics on Thursday published the previously confidential report from the nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) looking into the matter. It lays out both the accusations against the 1st District Representative, and the evidence investigators gathered during their probe.
At the heart of the investigations are two allegations:
- That Hagedorn's office spent $453,686.38 on mailers through two companies owned by or affiliated with two of his employees.
- Hagedorn's campaign made use of a Mankato office space while paying either no rent, or below-market-value rent, and did not report it as an in-kind contribution.
The OEC's report says there is "substantial reason to believe" Hagedorn "used official funds to contract for services with companies owned or controlled by his staff members," and "used private office space at no cost or for a rate below fair market value."
The investigation is not complete, but both could potentially constitute violations of House rules, standards of conduct and federal law, the report says.
The OEC also went out of its way to note Hagedorn's lack of cooperation during the review, saying his refusal to participate means "the extent to which [Hagedorn] was aware of or involved in" the two potential violations "remains unclear." (He was one of six individuals or parties the OEC listed as refusing to cooperate.)
Hagedorn's response to the OCE report, filed in August by his attorneys, said the OCE's report includes "unfounded conclusions." The response also accused the OCE of choosing to "waste taxpayer resources" reviewing claims Hagedorn had self-reported, and took umbrage with the description of Hagedorn as uncooperative, saying "it somehow demonstrates culpability on his part."
Hagedorn, the response says, "stands ready to cooperate fully and voluntarily" if the committee has questions, with the response suggesting "leftist groups" have targeted the Republican congressman.
The committee's statement Thursday specifically notes that "conducting further review of a referral" and adhering to any "mandatory" disclosures does not indicate Hagedorn violated any rules or laws.
The committee is still investigating the matter.
What the OEC's report alleges
The purpose of the OEC's report, which was sent to the House Ethics Committee in July, is not to determine whether wrongdoing occurred. Instead, it acts as a referral to the committee, which can then choose whether to review the matter. In September, the committee's chairman and ranking member announced they had indeed chosen to do so.
Both allegations first came to light through media reports, the first through a report from Legistorm on June 8, 2020, followed by the Minnesota Reformer. The story prompted Hagedorn to order an internal review of the mailer spending, which the congressman self-reported to the House Ethics Committee, and saw him fire his Chief of Staff.
But the OCE found evidence Hagedorn "knew or should have known that there were irregularities in his franked mail practices, including unusually high spending, above fair market prices, and potential financial conflicts of interest."
The second claim regarding the Mankato office space surfaced in October of 2020 via Politico. Hagedorn, in public statements, described the office space in question as a P.O. box and said "no physical location is tied to that address." The OCE found at least two social media posts, including one from Hagedorn's account, describing the address as a "headquarters" and showing groups of people there. Hagedorn's campaign, the OCE review said, paid $100 for the space, which had been going for $952 a month from 2011-14.
The OCE report says the evidence suggests Hagedorn "used private office space at no cost or for a rate below fair market value."