Office of Congressional Ethics: Rutherford failed to file timely disclosure reports

Despite being required to do so by federal law and House rules, U.S. Representative for District 4, which includes St Johns County, John H Rutherford, is under investigation by the House Committee on Ethics over multiple late disclosures of stock transactions that were made in his retirement fund account.  Historic City News learned Tuesday that the referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics said Rutherford would not sit down to answer questions and did not cooperate during their initial inquiry in February.

The STOCK Act requires members of Congress to report any transaction of more than $1,000 no later than 45 days after the transaction is made. The frequency of the reporting is crucial to the effectiveness of making such information public, according to the Office of Congressional Ethics.  The law is aimed at cracking down on lawmakers using non-public information gained from their positions to benefit financially from their investments.  Each overdue transaction report triggers a $200 fine.

“My contention is I don’t have direct authority over my IRA,” Rutherford said. “I’ve got a manager somewhere. I don’t even know who it is who makes those purchases of stock. I’m not involved with that.” 

The report says that from January 2017 when he took his seat in Congress until December 2021, Rutherford disclosed 157 late reports of transactions valued between $652,000 and $3.5 million.  The report said most of the late filings occurred during Rutherford’s first two-year term, but he continued to file late disclosures in more recent years, including after he attended several trainings regarding his disclosure obligations. In February 2021, Rutherford joined the bipartisan, 10-member House Committee on Ethics, which must now review one of its own members.

An $800 payment was made by Rutherford in November 2021 for fines related to late disclosures, however, the Office of Congressional Ethics questions whether a full accounting has been done.  Rutherford may not have been “properly penalized for his repeated violations of federal law and House rules” because he and his chief of staff Jen Bradley did not cooperate with the inquiry.  The report recommended the House Ethics Committee issue subpoenas to Rutherford and Bradley.

Kate Belinski, an attorney for Rutherford, said in a March 18 letter to the ethics committee, that the past late disclosures were “an entirely inadvertent oversight” by Rutherford and Bradley based on a “simple misunderstanding of the requirements” and human error.