House Democrat overseeing Washington Commanders inquiry faces ethics complaint

House Democrat overseeing Washington Commanders inquiry faces ethics complaint

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A top House Democrat helping lead the congressional probe into the NFL’s Washington Commanders is facing an ethics complaint after agreeing to do a fundraiser with two lobbyists linked to a campaign to oust team owner Dan Snyder. 

The American Accountability Foundation says Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., may have violated House ethics rules by agreeing to appear at a May fundraiser hosted by the lobbying duo Mike and Tom Manatos. 

The brothers have a long history of opposing Snyder, with Tom Manatos even running a website dedicated to pushing negative content about the team owner.

“It’s clear that Rep. Krishnamoorthi, members of his staff and perhaps others, violated House ethics rules and the federal bribery statute by raising — and agreeing to accept — campaign donations in exchange for using the power of the Oversight Committee to investigate and permanently damage the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins at the behest of wealthy lobbyists with an ax to grind against their local sports franchise,” said Tom Jones, the president of the American Accountability Foundation. 

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Team co-owner Dan Snyder speaks during the announcement of the Washington Football Team's name change to the Washington Commanders at FedExField Feb. 2, 2022, in Landover, Md.  

Team co-owner Dan Snyder speaks during the announcement of the Washington Football Team’s name change to the Washington Commanders at FedExField Feb. 2, 2022, in Landover, Md.   (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The organization sent a formal letter to the House Ethics Committee on Friday urging an investigation into the congressman’s conduct. In it, the government watchdog argues that Krishnamoorthi may not only have broken House ethics rules, but also could have violated federal laws regarding bribery. 

Neither Krishnamoorthi nor the Manatos brothers responded to requests for comment on this story. 

Krishnamoorthi has played a leading role in investigating Snyder and the Commanders as a senior member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. House ethics rules prohibit members from accepting gifts or campaign donations if they are directly linked to official legislative business.

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Mike Manatos initially pitched the fundraiser in an email to attendees as an opportunity to discuss with Krishnamoorthi the ongoing investigation into the team. 

“The one person in Washington who may have found a path to getting rid of Snyder [as the team’s owner] is my good friend and Chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi,” Mike Manatos wrote. “Tom and I hope you can join us on May 10 as a small group of us meets with Raja to discuss his efforts.” 

Complicating matters is the timing of the fundraiser. Just weeks prior, Krishnamoorthi had sent a 20-page letter to the Federal Trade Commission demanding an investigation into accusations claiming the Washington football franchise fleeced season ticket holders and the National Football League. 

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Illinois, questions witnesses during a House Intelligence Committee impeachment inquiry hearing in Washington, D.C., Nov. 19, 2019. 

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Illinois, questions witnesses during a House Intelligence Committee impeachment inquiry hearing in Washington, D.C., Nov. 19, 2019.  (Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Krishnamoorthi, who serves as chairman of the oversight panel’s subcommittee on the economy and consumer policy, has said he was unaware of the overture on his behalf. The congressman canceled the fundraiser shortly before it was set to take place. 

However, questions remain about the nature of the fundraiser and Krishnamoorthi’s involvement.

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An invitation sent along with the Manatos email, reviewed by Fox News Digital, lists two individuals with the Strathdee Group as points of contact for RSVPs to the event. Federal Election Commission records indicate that Krishnamoorthi pays the organization $5,000 a month for fundraising consulting. 

The American Accountability Foundation said the conflict of interest is evident and requires further investigation. 

The Washington Commanders new uniforms shown Feb. 2, 2022, in Landover, Md. 

The Washington Commanders new uniforms shown Feb. 2, 2022, in Landover, Md.  (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

“The language in the invitation linking a fundraiser to Rep. Krishnamoorthi’s role in the investigation of the team is evidence of a corrupt quid pro quo to cause damage to the team and its leadership,” said Jones. “By canceling the event, Rep. Krishnamoorthi not only revealed his guilty conscience but also underscored the scope of his violation of both House and federal statutes.” 

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House Democrats began investigating the Commanders and Snyder last fall after a renewed outcry that the NFL failed to release a written report of its inquiry into the team’s workplace. As part of the committee’s inquiry, House Democrats have received hundreds of thousands of documents from the league and the team. 

Sexual misconduct accusations against Snyder also surfaced when a former employee told members of Congress that the billionaire touched her thigh inappropriately at a work dinner. Snyder has vigorously denied the claims. The NFL is conducting a separate investigation into the matter.

As part of the probe, Snyder testified in front of the Oversight Committee this week for 11 hours. 

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