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Ethics Office Started No New Probes in Third Quarter

The Office of Congressional Ethics referred eight new investigations to the House ethics committee in recent months, but the agency did not open any new investigations in the third quarter of this year, according to a report issued Thursday.

The OCE, which is tasked with reviewing potential rules violations and recommending investigations to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, reported work on 20 ongoing inquiries between late July and early September.

The report offers only a statistical review of the OCE’s work and does not identify the Members under review or specific allegations.

In the first half of the year, the OCE had reported opening 69 investigations. It has now referred 21 of those to the ethics committee for further review and recommended no further action in another 17 matters.

In the third quarter, the OCE referred eight inquiries to the ethics panel for further review and recommended that four matters be dismissed.

It did not identify those cases, but the House ethics panel confirmed Monday that it is reviewing an investigation involving six lawmakers — Reps. Rob Aderholt (R-Ala.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas) and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) — who are believed to be under review related to their use of official travel funds.

The OCE has also recommended at least three other investigations that were not included in the third-quarter tally.

Roll Call reported in August that the OCE referred investigations into Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), Tom Price (R-Ga.) and John Campbell (R-Calif.) regarding their fundraising efforts in advance of the 2009 financial reform vote.

The OCE recommended dismissal of related reviews of five other Members: 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.).

In a footnote to the report, the OCE noted that it delayed the release of its quarterly report to comply with “the spirit” of a mandatory blackout period prior to Election Day.

Under the House resolution establishing the OCE, the office is prohibited from forwarding any recommendations to the ethics committee in the 60 days before an election if the subject of an investigation is a candidate in that contest.

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