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McAuliffe appointee accused of violating lobbying rules

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s nominee for secretary of commerce, Maurice Jones, may have engaged in improper lobbying while he was deputy secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to a report from the HUD inspector general.

Republicans in Virginia’s House of Delegates did not vote Tuesday on a resolution to confirm Jones and other nominees of McAuliffe (D).

“The news report certainly gave us pause,” said Matt Moran, a spokesman for House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), so Republicans declined to vote on the resolution Tuesday “to get a little bit of time and carefully review reports before moving forward.”

Jones, who prior to joining HUD was publisher of the Virginian-Pilot, had not previously attracted opposition from Republicans.

According to the inspector general’s report, Jones sent an e-mail last year to more than 1,000 people, including 46 HUD staffers, asking them to contact specific senators and urge support for an appropriations bill.

The inspector general concluded that Jones appears to have violated anti-lobbying law as well as internal HUD policy.

HUD Inspector General David Montoya will testify on the issue, which was first reported by the Washington Times, on Wednesday before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. Jeff Emerson, a spokesman for committee chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), said that Jones could be called to testify if follow-up hearings are held.

Jones told the Pilot that he was following the advice of HUD counsel and staff in sending the e-mail and that he would “never intentionally violate the laws, policies or codes of conduct that govern public officials.”

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

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