Conservative group files ethics complaint against John Lewis, top aide

WASHINGTON – A conservative watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against U.S. Rep. John Lewis Monday, alleging that the Atlanta Democrat improperly hired his top aide as a highly-paid staffer on his reelection campaign.

In a complaint filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, or FACT, alleged that Michael Collins, Lewis’ longtime chief of staff, broke ethics rules that bar senior staffers from serving on campaign organizations as officers and making more than the allowed amount for outside work.

FACT said Lewis was also at fault for hiring Collins as his campaign treasurer.

“Representative Lewis’s dual employment of Collins as both his chief of staff and campaign treasurer indicates that both Lewis and Collins violated ethics rules prohibiting this type of employment and outside salary limits,” Matthew Whitaker, the group’s executive director, wrote in a letter to Congress’ nonpartisan ethics watchdog on Monday.

Lewis’ campaign committee paid Collins $27,550 in consulting fees in 2015, according to federal campaign finance filings.

Collins and a spokeswoman for Lewis did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

This isn’t the first time FACT has gone after Lewis. The group slapped the 16-term lawmaker and several other House Democrats with another ethics complaint last summer for fundraising off the 26-hour gun control sit-in they led on the House floor.

Collins was cited by the House Ethics Committee in 2011 for failing to list $54,00 he made in consulting fees on his income tax returns and finance disclosure reports.

“These mistakes were not intentional but were due to an inadvertent omission in disclosure, ” Collins said at the time. He said he accepted “full responsibility” for the omission.

This is the second time Collins has made the news over the last year. Federal prosecutors in July accused a Washington, D.C. man of posing as Collins in order to snag pro football tickets and star treatment at a South Beach bar.

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