Radel Faces Ethics Inquiry After Drug Bust

Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL) speaks during a press conference, on Capitol Hill, July 9, 2013 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Billy House
Dec. 16, 2013, 11:47 a.m.

Con­gres­sion­al eth­ics watch­dogs have de­cided to in­vest­ig­ate wheth­er the House should hand down its own pun­ish­ment to Rep. Trey Radel for his mis­de­mean­or co­caine-pos­ses­sion con­vic­tion last month.

The de­cision was an­nounced Monday by the House Eth­ics Com­mit­tee’s chair­man, Rep. Mi­chael Con­away, R-Texas, and rank­ing mem­ber Linda Sanc­hez, D-Cal­if., in a joint state­ment.

A sub­pan­el of mem­bers from the GOP-chaired com­mit­tee will con­duct an ini­tial in­quiry to de­term­ine if House rules were vi­ol­ated. Any re­com­mend­a­tions for pun­it­ive ac­tion would then go to the full com­mit­tee.

The fo­cus of that in­quiry will be to de­term­ine wheth­er Radel, R-Fla., “vi­ol­ated the Code of Of­fi­cial Con­duct or any law, rule, reg­u­la­tion or oth­er ap­plic­able stand­ard of con­duct in the per­form­ance of his du­ties or the dis­charge of his re­spons­ib­il­it­ies with re­spect to con­duct” that led to the his ar­rest and guilty plea, said Con­away and Sanc­hez in their joint state­ment.

Po­ten­tial House ac­tions against Radel could range from a “let­ter of re­prov­al” to a re­com­mend­a­tion for ex­pul­sion.

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Charlie Dent, R-Pa., will serve as the chair­man of the in­vest­ig­at­ing sub­com­mit­tee. Reps. Yvette Clark, D-N.Y., Mar­sha Black­burn, R-Tenn., and Janice Hahn, D-Cal­if., will also serve on the pan­el.

Ul­ti­mately, there could be a pub­lic Eth­ics Com­mit­tee tri­al if Radel were to fight any charges brought against him.

The 37-year-old fresh­man law­maker is be­lieved to be the first sit­ting House mem­ber ar­res­ted on a co­caine charge. Court doc­u­ments say he bought 3.5 grams of co­caine from an un­der­cov­er po­lice of­fice in Wash­ing­ton’s Dupont Circle on Oct. 29, as part of a fed­er­al in­vest­ig­a­tion.

He was not form­ally charged un­til Nov. 19, and pleaded guilty to the mis­de­mean­or charge the next day, re­ceiv­ing a sen­tence of one year of pro­ba­tion and a $250 fine.

Radel has taken a leave of ab­sence from his le­gis­lat­ive du­ties with an eye to re­turn­ing in Janu­ary, and had vol­un­tar­ily en­rolled in an in­pa­tient sub­stance-ab­use pro­gram.

“Con­gress­man Radel has ac­know­ledged and ac­cep­ted full re­spons­ib­il­ity for his ac­tions and is com­mit­ted to con­tinu­ing and com­plet­ing a treat­ment pro­gram that will help him over­come his per­son­al prob­lems,” said a Radel spokes­man, Greg Dolan. “He ex­pec­ted that the House Eth­ics Com­mit­tee would look in­to the mat­ter and in­tends to ap­pro­pri­ately ad­dress the in­vest­ig­a­tion ini­ti­ated by the House Eth­ics Com­mit­tee.”

Wash­ing­ton-based law­yer Dav­id Schertler, who rep­res­en­ted Radel in the crim­in­al case, said he is also rep­res­ent­ing the law­maker in the eth­ics mat­ter. He said they have not yet re­ceived any re­quest to ap­pear be­fore the pan­el and have not done so.

Sources say the Eth­ics Com­mit­tee met privately on sev­er­al mat­ters last week pri­or to the House ad­journ­ing for the year, in­clud­ing a ses­sion Thursday to dis­cuss the Radel case.

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