Why Did House Ethics Committee Drop Radel Inquiry?

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Rep. Trey Radel, R- Fla., is interviewed in the Capitol Hill office in Washington D.C. 
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
Jan. 29, 2014, 9:48 a.m.

The House Eth­ics Com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day said it has form­ally closed the books on its in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to pos­sible vi­ol­a­tions of House rules against former Rep. Trey Radel for his co­caine-pos­ses­sion con­vic­tion, spark­ing an out­cry from a watch­dog group that says there are still too many ques­tions for the in­quiry to be aban­doned.

The com­mit­tee de­scribed its de­cision to drop the mat­ter as pro­ced­ur­al. The joint an­nounce­ment from Chair­man Mike Con­away and rank­ing mem­ber Linda Sanc­hez, D-Cal­if., noted that with the fresh­man law­maker’s resig­na­tion from Con­gress on Monday, an Eth­ics in­vest­ig­at­ive sub­com­mit­tee “no longer has jur­is­dic­tion over him.”

But not every­one is sat­is­fied with that.

One out­side gov­ern­ment watch group, Cit­izens for Re­spons­ib­il­ity and Eth­ics in Wash­ing­ton, raised ques­tions this week about Radel’s sud­den de­par­ture from Con­gress—and it says the eth­ics in­vest­ig­a­tion should con­tin­ue.

CREW had already filed a com­plaint with the sep­ar­ate Of­fice of Con­gres­sion­al Eth­ics against Radel after his ar­rest and con­vic­tion in Novem­ber, as­sert­ing that his con­duct re­flec­ted dis­cred­it­ably upon the House.

Now the group is sug­gest­ing that its seems pos­sible the House com­mit­tee is clos­ing the Radel case be­cause it might have eli­cited dam­aging in­form­a­tion about oth­er mem­bers of Con­gress and con­gres­sion­al staff.

“It’s not as if the Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship just learned of the co­caine bust over the week­end,” noted CREW Ex­ec­ut­ive Dir­ect­or Melanie Sloan in a state­ment.

Radel was caught buy­ing drugs in Wash­ing­ton in a fed­er­al in­vest­ig­a­tion on Oct. 29. But he was not form­ally charged un­til Nov. 19, and he pleaded guilty to the mis­de­mean­or charge the next day, re­ceiv­ing one-year pro­ba­tion and a $250 fine.

Court doc­u­ments say he bought 3.5 grams of co­caine from an un­der­cov­er po­lice of­ficer in Wash­ing­ton’s Dupont Circle.

“Rep. Radel’s resig­na­tion is wel­come, though over­due. The tim­ing, however, is cer­tainly sus­pi­cious,” said Sloan in the state­ment earli­er this week. “Why now? It seems pos­sible his resig­na­tion is in­ten­ded to sty­mie the eth­ics in­vest­ig­a­tion that might have eli­cited dam­aging in­form­a­tion about oth­er mem­bers of Con­gress and con­gres­sion­al staff.”

Sloan also noted that CREW has pre­vi­ously raised ques­tions about who in­tro­duced the first-term law­maker—who lived in Wash­ing­ton less than 10 months—to his drug deal­er?

“Fur­ther, we know Rep. Radel shared his co­caine with oth­ers. Who, ex­actly? Giv­en his short ten­ure in D.C., Rep. Radel most likely spent his free time with oth­er mem­bers of Con­gress and Hill staff,” said Sloan.

“The con­gress­man’s resig­na­tion should in no way de­rail the eth­ics in­vest­ig­a­tion stem­ming from this in­cid­ent,” she said.

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