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Legacy Content / CONGRESS

OCE Wants Continued Probe On House Finance Vote

Office Of Congressional Ethics Clears Hensarling And Others, Wants Further Investigation Of Campbell, Crowley

August 31, 2010

Updated at 4:15 p.m. with confirmation from Rep. Joseph Crowley's office.

Congressional ethics investigators have formally notified several House Democrats and Republicans they are recommending dismissal of an inquiry into whether their votes on the financial overhaul bill in December may have been influenced by political contributions -- but not others.

"The Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics ('OCE') referred the above numbered matter to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct ('Standards Committee') for dismissal," wrote Leo Wise, the OCE's staff director and chief counsel, in a letter to some of the lawmakers Monday.

 

An OCE spokesman would not comment. But a copy of the OCE's letter to Rep. Chris Lee, R-N.Y., was released today by Lee's office. Spokespersons for Reps. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, Frank Lucas, R-Okla., Melvin Watt, D-N.C., and Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., today also confirmed receipt of the OCE dismissal recommendation letter.

Three other lawmakers, Reps. Tom Price, R-Ga., John Campbell, R-Calif., and Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., have received apparently different letters. Campbell's office confirmed this afternoon that OCE has recommended a continued investigation into his conduct in the matter.

"I have been informed that the Office of Congressional Ethics has concluded their inquiry and has referred the matter to the House Ethics Committee for further review," Campbell said in a statement. "I am perplexed by OCE's decision, as they have presented no evidence that would suggest wrongdoing. As one of Congress's most outspoken critics of the earmark system and the waste and corruption it engenders, I have worked to make Congress more transparent and accountable to the American taxpayer. Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unfounded. I look forward to a favorable resolution of this matter."

A spokeswoman for Crowley also confirmed today he received a letter from the OCE informing him that his case is being referred for "further review."

"Congressman Crowley has always complied with the letter and spirit of all rules regarding fundraising and standards of conduct," said the spokeswoman.

Price, in a statement today, did not discuss the contents of the letter his office received, but he expressed dissatisfaction with what appears to be an ongoing inquiry with regard to him.

"As a member of Congress, I have always complied with the letter and the spirit of the law," he said in the statement. "To suggest otherwise is unfounded and untrue."

Price said he does not know why the OCE chose to initiate the review in the first place, but that, "nevertheless, I look forward to the Committee on Standards dismissing this action."

The eight congressmen, all members of either the Financial Services or Ways and Means committees, had each been informed this summer by the OCE that they were under preliminary scrutiny. All three of the Democrats voted for the bill, which passed Dec. 11 without any Republican votes in favor.

"We are pleased that the OCE board voted unanimously to recommend dismissal," said Pomeroy spokeswoman Hillary Price. "As we have said all along, the facts showed that Congressman Pomeroy stood up to Wall Street and stood up for the taxpayers of North Dakota."

Those members willing to comment previously about the OCE inquiry had all forcefully denied any wrongdoing.

According to information from the OCE given to Hensarling's office, ethics investigators had been looking into political contributions received between Dec. 2 and Dec. 11 that may have influenced his vote.

Part of that OCE "preliminary review" had included sending a letter to financial-industry lobbyists seeking copies of correspondence between their offices and the eight House members regarding the bill.

Correction: The original version of this story suggested that the OCE's letters to the eight targeted congressmen all indicated they were being cleared of wrongdoing, but National Journal has since learned that some of the congressmen received different letters than the one released by Rep. Lee's office.

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