Randy Wade, a former longtime aide to U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Memphis), defended his reputation in the wake of a Congressional ethics investigation against him.
"Congressman, it's about my name! It's about my character! It's about the way my mom raised me!," Wade said while surrounded by supporters Tuesday morning at a news conference.
Congressman Cohen himself launched that investigation in 2012 when he reported his own staff member to the House Ethics Committee.
Cohen snitches on longtime aide Wade
Wade was once Congressman Cohen's district director in Memphis. He looked into the cameras and sent a message to his old boss.
"I was your friend! I was your friend! I wasn't your enemy!," Wade said. "I've been up on billboards when you asked me to as an employee! I've cut radio spots Congressman for you when you asked me to!"
To Wade this is as much a story about a broken bond between two men as it is about a Congressional ethics complaint. The political operative and occasional political candidate says he helped get Rep. Cohen to Washington, D.C.
The two were close. Three years ago when Wade ran for Shelby County Sheriff the congressman called Wade "my brother from another mother."
"Randy Wade, a Democratic candidate for sheriff. My brother from another mother. Speak!"
Wade, who lost the general election that year and continued working as Cohen's top aide, left the Congressional office back in February.
He then got a letter in the mail. The letter was from the House Ethics Committee and it stated it been investigating Wade after Congressman Cohen sent a complaint to the committee in July 2012.
"How can he allow politics to come between that kind of bond?," Wade questioned. "Congressman I do not understand that."
It all goes back to the 2012 Democratic Primary for the 93rd House District. Wade decided to endorse Tennessee State Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis). Congressman Cohen was backing the other candidate.
Rep. Hardaway sent a campaign mailer with Wade's endorsement. It listed Wade's congressional title and the quote on the mailer said, "If there's something that needs to be taken care of on the state level, I call G.A. Hardaway. He's the go-to guy for the Congressman's office."
Congressman Cohen said that's against the rules, and he says he had to send this letter to the House Ethics Committee.
"The fact that he didn't obey them put possible taint on this office, and it was our duty according to House Ethics to ask them to do an inquiry," U.S. Rep. Cohen said.
wade says he couldn't control what State Rep. Hardaway put in his mailer and contends he didn't do anything wrong. But he was never contacted by the House Ethics Committee and he didn't know U.S. Rep. Cohen had filed the complaint.
"I never got a chance to tell my side," Wade said.
The House Ethics Committee sent Congressman Cohen and Wade a letter this month concluding, "Mr. Wade's conduct may have violated certain House rules and a law applicable to employees of the House."
"For whatever reason Mr. Wade chose to make these revelations, which were otherwise private, public," the congressman said. "I regret that he did so because he's damaged his character and damaged some of the work that took place here in this office."
Wade says he chose to go public to defend himself against the ethics claim. He's seen Cohen change since he first went to Congress.
"He has an air about himself, okay, that people feel he's arrogant. They do," Wade said.
For Cohen's former longtime aide, it's about more than an ethics complaint. The bonds of friendship are broken. When asked if he thought the congressman could still represent the district, Wade said no.
"I don't think he can do it effectively, I don't, because of the things working there and what I know," he said.
Cohen spokesman Ben Garmisa told FOX13 News the congressman has done and continues to work for his constituents.
"The congressman continues as he always has to work hard on behalf of his constituents. That has been, is and always will be the case," Garmisa said in a statement to FOX13 News. "He puts his duty to his constituents above any other responsibility or relationship."
Wade says he is done supporting the congressman.
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