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Price, Campbell Acknowledge Ongoing Ethics Probe

Updated: 2:22 p.m.

Two House Republicans confirmed Tuesday that the Office of Congressional Ethics recommended that the House ethics committee further investigate fundraisers the Members held around the 2009 financial reform vote.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) and Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) both expressed confusion about the OCE’s actions and said the allegations lacked evidence.

The OCE, which reviews potential rules violations and recommends investigations to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, conducted a probe of eight lawmakers, including Price and Campbell, who held fundraisers in December 2009 before the financial reform legislation was approved in the House that month. The OCE also recommended that the ethics committee take no action in the case of at least five other Members.

“How the OCE arrived at their recommendation is truly a mystery,” Price said in a statement. “There being no evidence of any wrongdoing or any inconsistency in my policy position, one can only guess as to the motive behind their decision or even why they chose to initiate a review in the first place.”

Campbell said he was “perplexed” by the OCE’s decision to refer the inquiry to the ethics committee.

“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,” Campbell said in his statement. “Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unfounded.”

One senior Republican aide said the OCE was attempting to create new laws through its recommendations and the decisions showed a misunderstanding of House rules.

“We fully expect Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, [Majority] Leader [Steny] Hoyer, and [Banking] Chairman [Barney] Frank to receive letters from OCE regarding any appearance of impropriety surrounding their fundraising at the same time as they scheduled a vote on the financial regulatory reform bill,” the aide said.

The OCE closed its inquiry into Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), Chris Lee (R-N.Y.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Mel Watt (D-N.C.) and recommended the House ethics panel not pursue the matter.

“We are pleased that the OCE board voted unanimously to recommend dismissal,” Pomeroy’s office said in a statement Monday. “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.”

Lucas released an Aug. 27 statement he submitted to the OCE, in which he praised the “professionalism” of OCE staff but criticized the OCE’s decision to request documents form outside sources, which led to media reports about the investigation.

“I have always maintained a strict separation between my political activities and my official work as a Member of Congress. It seems the mere coincidence of timing with one particular event has been the impetus for this investigation. I find it hard to believe that after my 16 years in this body and my diligence at maintaining the highest ethical conduct I would now find myself in a situation trying to prove my innocence,” Lucas wrote.

“The investigation has been a very stressful and time-consuming process for me and my staff. Hours were spent producing documents and preparing for interviews. However, the real cost has been to my personal political capital. The lack of confidentiality has led to all eight members involved in this inquiry having our reputations irreparably damaged by the viral press coverage,” he added.

It was not immediately clear whether the OCE made a similar recommendation in its case involving Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.).

Aides to those lawmakers could not provide information about the OCE’s recommendation Tuesday morning.

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