The House Ethics Committee said on Monday that it will launch a full-scale subcommittee investigation into whether efforts by Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., on behalf of a kidney-transplant program in Nevada that has financial ties to her husband was a conflict of interest.
The announcement from Chairman Jo Bonner, R-Ala., and ranking member Linda Sanchez, D-Calif.—which comes amid Berkley’s challenge to freshman Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.—emphasizes that the committee's decision does not necessarily imply that a violation occurred.
But news that the committee on June 29 unanimously voted to establish an investigative subcommittee is an unwelcome development for Democrats, who hope that the Silver State is one of a few where they could swipe a Senate seat back from Republicans. There is no certainty of when the closed-door investigation will end.
Last fall, the Nevada Republican Party filed an ethics complaint against Berkley, 62, after The New York Times detailed five years of actions “in which she pushed legislation or twisted the arms of federal regulators to pursue an agenda that is aligned with the business interests of her husband.” Those efforts reportedly included advocating for higher Medicare reimbursement rates for kidney care.
According to the committee's Monday announcement, Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, will lead the investigative subcommittee and Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., will serve as ranking member. Reps. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., round out the subcommittee.
Berkley’s Senate campaign asserted that it was “pleased” with the committee's decision, though the panel could have elected to dismiss the matter.
“We are pleased with the committee’s decision to conduct a full and fair investigation, which will ensure all the facts are reviewed," Berkley's campaign manager, Jessica Mackler, said in a statement. "We are confident that ultimately it will be clear that Congresswoman Berkley’s one and only concern was for the health and well-being of Nevada’s patients.
“That’s why she joined then Republican Congressman Dean Heller to prevent Nevada’s only kidney transplant program from being shut down by Washington bureaucrats," she continued. "With more than 200 Nevada patients desperately waiting for a lifesaving kidney transplant, it would have been irresponsible of her not to work with the state’s entire congressional delegation to protect the program."
The announcement by the Ethics Committee on Monday was not accompanied by the release of the findings in the case received on Feb. 9 from the Office of Congressional Ethics. The OCE is a quasi-independent ethics body charged with vetting allegations against lawmakers before passing a case on to the committee.
The announcement said the committee was not releasing any documents in the matter “at this time,” citing House and Ethics Committee rules.