The lead sponsor of a bill to strengthen federal law against soring Tennessee Walking Horses said that an ethics complaint against him contains bogus charges but may succeed in derailing the legislation.
Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., in a conference call with reporters, said a complaint filed against him with the House Ethics Committee, involves charges he allowed his wife to improperly lobby him about the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act.
Connie Harriman Whitfield is a senior policy adviser for the Humane Society of the United States.
"She did not lobby me on it," Whitfield says, adding that his interest in the issue goes back at least a decade, long before his wife's association with the Humane Society, one of the major interest groups supporting the bill.
The Ethics Committee would not release details but confirmed it is investigating a complaint against Whitfield.
While the complaint makes charges about his wife's lobbying, Whitfield says, "It's not about any money, any payoff."
The ethics complaint arises as Whitfield has been talking to House Republican leaders about getting a floor vote for the PAST Act, which would beef up federal inspections of horse shows and outlaw various "action devices" used in soring.
Widely seen as cruel, soring involves using caustic chemicals, chains, special pads and other devices on a walking horse's legs and hooves to inflict pain and create an artificially high step, referred to as the "Big Lick." Whitfield's bill has 305 House co-sponsors - 70 percent of the chamber - as well as the endorsement of former Tennessee Republican Gov. Winfield Dunn. An identical Senate version has 57 co-sponsors, three short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
But the Kentucky lawmaker acknowledged the ethics complaint could poison the bill's chances of getting a vote.
"I think there is a possibility it will derail the PAST Act," he says.