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Report: All Is Quiet on Ethics Front

For the second year in a row, the Senate Ethics Committee conducted no investigations that resulted in disciplinary actions, according to the panel’s annual report.

During calendar year 2008, the report states the committee received 85 allegations of wrongdoing — including public complaints, as well as those from Senators and aides — and ultimately dismissed the majority of those grievances for lack of jurisdiction, insufficient facts or “lack of substantial merit.”

According to the report, the Ethics panel did conduct 10 preliminary inquiries — an initial investigative stage aimed at determining whether sufficient evidence exists to suggest a violation within the committee’s jurisdiction has occurred — including four complaints continued from 2007.

However, the panel reported conducting no “adjudicatory reviews,” or the second stage of an investigation commissioned by the committee that can result in disciplinary action, including censure, restitution or a recommendation to strip a Member of seniority or assignments.

Panel reports show the committee conducted no secondary reviews during the 110th Congress, the same time period in which then-Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) was found guilty on felony charges for failing to report more than $250,000 in gifts and then-Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge after his arrest in a Minneapolis airport sex sting in 2007.

The Ethics committee did, however, admonish Craig in a public letter in February — one of two such letters that the panel issued in 2008.

The other letter addressed then-Sen. Pete Domenici’s (R-N.M.) contact with federal prosecutors involved in public corruption investigations in his state. The panel found Domenici did not violate rules but “should have known” his phone call in the final days of the 2006 elections could have had undue influence.

The Ethics panel did not take public action on the Stevens allegations, other than to issue a statement declining to comment on the ongoing federal investigation.

The Ethics panel report, which is mandated under the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, provides only a numerical accounting of the committee’s activities and does not detail any allegations.

In addition, the report tallies educational activities conducted by the committee and its day-to-day advisory role, which included more than 15,555 telephone calls for ethics advice and guidance, as well as 1,264 advisory letters and responses. The panel also issued almost 3,400 letters related to financial disclosure forms and reviewed more than 1,510 reports.

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