Read Our Devin Nunes Ethics Complaint

Omar Ashmawy
Office of Congressional Ethics
U.S. House of Representatives
P.O. Box 895
Washington, DC 20515-0895

Request for investigation of possible violation of House Rule XXIII by Rep. Devin Nunes

I am writing to request that the Office of Congressional Ethics (the “OCE”) investigate a possible violation of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Code of Official Conduct as set out in House Rule XXIII (the “Code”) by Rep. Devin Nunes.

Reporting by the biggest newspaper in Nunes’ district, the Fresno Bee, indicates that he has violated Clause 1 of the Code by virtue of his apparent ownership stake in a winery allegedly implicated in a scandal involving fellow winery investors, underage prostitutes, and sexual harassment. This matter should be investigated fully by the OCE, especially given the disrepute into which Congress has recently been brought as a result of the behavior of certain now-former Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle including sexual assault and sexual harassment.

The Fresno Bee (Mackenzie Mays, “A Yacht, Cocaine, Prostitutes: Winery Partly Owned By Nunes Sued After Fundraising Event,” The Fresno Bee, 5/23/18) recently reported the following:

In 2015, Alene Anase was asked by her employer Alpha Omega Winery to serve guests as part of a charity cruise on the San Francisco Bay.

[…]

The guests aboard the yacht that night — described in her 2016 lawsuit as 25 of the Napa Valley-based winery’s top investors, all men — were openly using what appeared to be cocaine and “drawing straws” for which sex worker to hire, according to the lawsuit.

Alpha Omega, which boasts “world-class wines in a convivial setting,” settled with Anase for an undisclosed amount in Napa County Superior Court the same year. The winery is owned by Robin Baggett, a major benefactor of Cal Poly, and its investors include his friend Rep. Devin Nunes.

Anase alleges that on the Aug. 12, 2015 cruise she could hear sexual activity happening in the yacht’s bedrooms and witnessed men “fondling and suckling” sex workers’ breasts — some who appeared to be “too young to consent.” At least one of the several John Does listed as defendants allegedly suggested that Anase should also “provide services of a sexual nature.”

But she couldn’t just leave — she was on the water.

She called the winery seeking help, and a higher-up employee told her to “lie low” to avoid harassment, the lawsuit says.

When the cruise ended, the men “lined the prostitutes up on the deck of the yacht, reviewed out loud and in detail the sexual services performed and paid them in front of Plaintiff,” according to the lawsuit.

The cruise was auctioned off at a charity fundraiser, and the winning bidders aboard the yacht were “important investors in Alpha,” according to court documents.

Also according to the Fresno Bee, Rep. Nunes invested between $50,000 and $100,000 in the Alpha Omega Winery. According to financial disclosures, Rep. Nunes serves as a limited partner in the winery. (Mackenzie Mays, “A Yacht, Cocaine, Prostitutes: Winery Partly Owned By Nunes Sued After Fundraising Event,” The Fresno Bee, 5/23/18)

Clause 1 of the Code states that “A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer or employee of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.”

Rep. Nunes’ continued investment in the Alpha Omega Winery does not appear to reflect creditably on the House, in view of these allegations and the Fresno Bee’s reporting.

This is the case whether or not Rep. Nunes was personally involved with, or attended, the yacht cruise in question—though facts pertaining to both matters should also be firmly ascertained by OCE.

The allegation concerning prostitutes “too young to consent” is of particular concern.

As I am sure you know, underage prostitutes are frequently the victims of human trafficking and extensive abuse. They are among society’s most vulnerable. It is critical that public servants can be trusted to protect them, both as a matter of public policy and in terms of private conduct they have the ability to influence.

As I am also sure you aware, Americans’ trust in our institutions, including Congress, is currently low. An important way of redressing this lack of confidence will be to ensure the robust application of the Code, and better ethics in government, starting with Congress itself.

For this reason, OCE should prioritize a review of Rep. Nunes’ investment and involvement in the Alpha Omega Winery, and the facts reported by the Fresno Bee. Such review should be undertaken as swiftly as possible.

Sincerely,