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Ethics Announcements on Hold Until Committee Reorganizes

The House Ethics Committee was slated to announce Monday its next steps in two cases related to possible House rules violations by Reps. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., and Bill Owens, D-N.Y., but was unable to do so because it has yet to hold its first organizational meeting and therefore does not officially exist as a committee.

Democratic leadership did not announce the members who would make up the Ethics Committee in the 113th Congress — Del. Pedro R. Pierluisi of Puerto Rico and Reps. Michael E. Capuano of Massachusetts, Yvette D. Clarke of New York and Ted Deutch of Florida — until last week, leaving only days to convene before the committee’s first scheduled announcement.

K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, is the incoming chairman of the committee and Linda T. Sánchez, D-Calif., is returning again as ranking member. Republican Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania, Susan W. Brooks of Indiana and Trey Gowdy of South Carolina round out the roster.

Because the House is not a continuing body, it must re-appoint its committee members, re-adopt its rules and begin each congress with a clean slate, the Office of the Parliamentarian confirmed. Though the Ethics Committee would not technically be beholden to pick up anything in the pipeline from the prior congress, there is no indication it has plans to abandon the cases regarding Schock, Owens or other pending matters. The committee has until Feb. 15 to re-organize.

The Schock and Owens cases originated in the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent fact-finding agency that was created by the House in 2008 to review allegations of wrongdoing within the chamber and refer cases that require further action to the committee.

Public disclosure requirements in the bifurcated ethics process require the committee to, in most cases, release the outside office’s report on a matter after 90 days unless an investigative subcommittee is empaneled to conduct a formal investigation. The review period for both the Schock and Owens cases ended on Jan. 28.

Though neither ethics body has commented publicly on either case, the Schock matter is known to be related to whether he asked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to contribute $25,000 to the anti-incumbent super PAC Campaign for Primary Accountability to support Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., as he ran for congress. The Owens case concerns a privately financed trip he took to Taiwan at the invitation of the Chinese Culture University in Taiwan that had in fact been arranged in part by lobbyists for the country’s government at Park Strategies, a firm founded by former Republican Sen. Alfonse M. D’Amato of New York. Owens has already paid back the cost of the trip.

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