Members Again Thwart Flake’s Push for PMA Probe Details

Posted March 25, 2010 at 2:22pm

House lawmakers on Thursday deflected an attempt by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to force the House ethics committee to release details of its investigation into Members’ interactions with the now-defunct PMA Group lobbying firm. It was the second time in a week Flake’s effort has been rerouted.

The House voted, 406-1, to refer Flake’s motion — which would require the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, commonly known as the ethics committee, to report how many people it interviewed, how many subpoenas it issued and how many documents it reviewed in the PMA investigation — to the ethics panel itself.

The House referred an identical resolution to the committee on March 18.

The ethics committee issued a report in February declaring that no Member of the House and no House staff had acted inappropriately in providing earmarks to companies that had hired PMA to lobby on their behalf.

The independent Office of Congressional Ethics had suggested that the ethics committee dismiss cases against five Members but conduct a further investigation into two Members, suggesting there was evidence of a link between the earmarks provided by the two Members and campaign contributions made by the companies.

The Justice Department is also investigating PMA, which closed its doors after an FBI raid in November 2008.

But the ethics panel reported that after an exhaustive investigation, it had found no evidence of impropriety. Roll Call reported earlier this month that it is not clear that the ethics committee actually interviewed any Members or contacted any of the companies involved.

Flake proposed a seven-day deadline for the committee to report on the investigation in the resolution approved March 18.

Since those seven days have expired, Flake reintroduced the resolution Thursday, and his spokesman said he is prepared to continue introducing a similar resolution every time the seven-day deadline passes.

“Here we are a week later, we haven’t heard anything from the Standards Committee,” Flake said on the floor Thursday morning. “I hope we finally get an answer as to the extent of the investigation.”

Although the ethics panel could opt to review either version of the resolution and send it back to the House floor for a vote, it is not required to act on the measure.