Ethics Office Urged Investigation of 12 Members Last Year

Posted January 14, 2010 at 2:30pm

The Office of Congressional Ethics forwarded 12 ethics investigations to the House during the past 12 months, including three reviews in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to a report released by the office Thursday.

The OCE, created by the House in March 2008 to review potential rules violations and recommend investigations to the House ethics committee, reported initiating 25 inquiries in 2009, the first year in which it was fully operational.

During the fourth quarter of 2009, the OCE reported advancing 10 reviews to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct — the ethics panel’s official name — but recommended only three of those for further investigation.

Among the seven inquiries the OCE recommended for dismissal, at least four involved a review of Members and their relationships with the defunct lobbying firm PMA Group.

The offices of Reps. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Jim Moran (D-Va.), John Murtha (D-Pa.) and Bill Young (R-Fla.) each told Roll Call in December that the OCE had closed its inquiries of them and advised against further investigation by the House ethics committee.

The OCE has never publicly confirmed its investigation into PMA, but a confidential document leaked in October showed the office was also reviewing Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) in connection with the firm, which focused on defense appropriations.

The House ethics committee identified one of the three investigations recommended by the OCE in late December, when it announced it was reviewing allegations involving Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.).

The confidential ethics report leaked in October showed the OCE reviewing news reports that Stark had received a tax break intended for Maryland residents for his home in Anne Arundel County. Three other Members facing similar inquiries for receiving the Maryland homestead tax break told the Washington Post in October that the matter had been dismissed by the OCE.

Stark declined comment Wednesday on the ethics investigation, or whether the OCE had dismissed its review of his Maryland home.