A US watchdog has found “substantial” proof that a lawmaker counted among the strongest supporters of Narendra Modi misused official funds for campaign activities.
The lawmaker, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, is the head of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives, number 3 in the parliamentary party hierarchy.
She headed a three-member team of Republican lawmakers to meet Modi in Gujarat in March 2013, that famously promised to end the US visa ban on him.
The other two were Cynthia Lummis and Aaron Schock.
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) said in a report made public on Monday that Rodgers may have used congressional funds for campaign activities.
OCE further said that she may have used campaign funds for congressional work — using that money, specifically, to hire a consultant to help her with congressional activities.
The report also said she may have used her congressional office for campaign work — she used it to practice for an upcoming elections debate.
Her lawyer dismissed the allegations, calling them “frivolous”.
“We remain confident that, in time, the committee will dismiss the complaint which was based on frivolous allegations from a single source — a former employee who then discredited himself by admitting to his own improper conduct,” said her attorney Elliot Burke.
The probe by OCE, an independent non-partisan body set up to keep an eye on members of the House of Representatives, was triggered by a complaint from a Rodgers staffer.
The findings, it must be stressed, do not amount to formal charges. Experts said that the best proof of that is that the House Ethics Committee, which released the OCE report, did not order a sub-committee probe into the allegations.
Rodgers has been at the forefront of the rehabilitate-Modi campaign at the urging of US-based supporters of the Gujarat chief minister.
Apart from visiting him in Gujarat, Rodgers was among the few US lawmakers — mostly Republicans — who congratulated him at his nomination as the BJP’s prime minister candidate.
“First of all, I want to congratulate you on winning the nomination of the BJP for prime minister of India,” Rodgers said in an undated letter provided to this reporter by her supporters.
“I tried to reach you by telephone right after your win, but was unable to connect.” she added.
In another letter, Rodgers thanked Modi for his hospitality, for the March visit, and reiterated her promise of US visa: “I also wanted to let you know that we are working hard on trying to help you visit the Unites Staes.”
“I hope we can get it done before you get too busy with the upcoming elections,” she added.
This letter, as said in the copy provided to this paper by her supporters, was written on June 5, 2013 just a few weeks after Rodgers-led delegation returned from India.
“A real honor and pleasure to meet you, progressive leadership in Gujarat,” she had added in her own hand.
In that letter, Rodgers told Modi she hoped he could try and join an Indian-American Meet-up — sponsored by the Republican party — on the Hill sometime in September.
That meet did indeed happen.
But it was marred by allegations of misuse of Republican party office and symbol by Modi’s supporters to garner support for him. The event ended badly for everyone concerned.