The Office of Congressional Ethics on Wednesday announced that it abandoned as many as four ethics probes in the third quarter, after the subjects of the inquiries resigned.
Only three House members resigned between July and September—Reps. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif., Geoff Davis, R-Ky., and Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich.—and none cited any ethics entanglements when making their departure. The ethics office has jurisdiction to investigate both lawmakers and their staff.
On Wednesday, both Cardoza and Davis said they knew of no ethics inquiry into them or their offices before they resigned. McCotter could not be reached for comment through his old office. But four of his former aides have faced legal troubles in voter-fraud cases in recent months.
“I don’t know a darned thing about it,” said Cardoza, who resigned in August and joined the law and lobbying firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. “It wasn’t me.”
Davis said in an e-mail: “I can say with absolute certainty that this is unrelated to me or my office. Our office never had any issues with the Ethics Committee or OCE.”
McCotter missed qualifying for the ballot in the Michigan primary. Four of his former staff members have faced various charges related to petition fraud. One, Lorianne O’Brady, pleaded no contest this month to charges.
The Office of Congressional Ethics, created in the wake of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, operates outside the boundaries of the traditional House Ethics Committee. The office has the power to initiate probes into members of Congress and aides but not to mete out punishment. Instead, it can refer its findings to the lawmaker-run Ethics Committee for further review. The office operates largely in secrecy, releasing no information about the subjects of its probes.
In a quarterly report released on Wednesday, OCE included two separate footnotes that mention dropped reviews. In the first, attached to a July 28 meeting, the office said two subjects of “preliminary reviews that began in the previous quarter resigned and were no longer subject to Board or Committee jurisdiction.” In a second footnote, attached to Sept. 17 meeting, OCE wrote that “subjects of two additional second-phase reviews resigned before the OCE completed its investigation.”
The office also said it initiated no new reviews in the third quarter of 2012. It has begun 32 inquiries during the 112th Congress.