Bachmann Ethics Review Continues, Panel Closes Tierney Case

Posted September 11, 2013 at 6:11pm

The House Ethics Committee announced Wednesday it would continue to review possible ethics violations by Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Peter Roskam, R-Ill., and Timothy H. Bishop, D-N.Y., but will not launch full-scale investigations.

It opted to close a case involving Rep. John F. Tierney, D-Mass. He had been accused of improperly reporting income from his wife’s mother and brother. The Tierneys treated the money as a gift and therefore did not report the payment to the IRS, nor note it on the lawmaker’s financial disclosure statement.

The quasi-independent Office of Congressional Ethics referred all four cases to the Ethics Committee earlier in July, which later that month voted to extend the matters into early September. Though the panel revealed the names of those being probed in July, the release of the OCE’s full reports on Wednesday provides a deeper look into the potential violations.

Though Bachmann has announced her retirement from Congress, the allegations against her involve her unsuccessful run for president in 2011.

The OCE report outlines evidence that Bachmann may have used campaign funds to promote her book, “Core of Conviction,” may have used funds from her leadership political action committee to supplement the salary of political consultant Guy Short on her presidential campaign and may have paid Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson for his service to the campaign by illegally funneling money from Short’s consulting firm to Sorenson.

“If Representative Michele Bachmann authorized, permitted, or failed to prevent, by not taking reasonable steps to ensure that her leadership PAC operated in compliance with federal campaign finance laws, the use of funds from her leadership PAC to compensate a campaign consultant for work he performed for her presidential campaign, then she may have violated federal campaign finance laws and House rules,” the OCE report said.

Bachmann released a statement Wednesday that said during her presidential campaign, she complied with all applicable laws and House rules. “My campaign included experienced staff and advisers who, among other things, administered and managed the financial dealings of the campaign. My directive to them was clear and unequivocal: to be sure that the campaign complied with all relevant laws.”

Bachmann correctly states that the report released Wednesday does not make any findings; “it simply has referred certain matters to the Committee responsible for reviewing these issues.”

“Although I do not believe a referral was warranted, I respect the Committee process and I look forward to a successful conclusion to this matter,” Bachmann said.

While the payments to the Iowa state senator seem the most salacious of the ethics violations, the board recommended that the committee dismiss the allegation, reasoning that “there is not substantial reason to believe that Representative Bachmann knew that the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”) disclosure reports filed by her presidential campaign were false.”
The panel referred the matter to the FEC for review.

Peter Roskam, R-Ill.

Roskam has also adamantly maintained his innocence, so much so that in July, he voluntarily circulated the OCE report among those reporters who inquired.

The committee is looking into whether Roskam received an “impermissible gift” when he and his wife traveled to Taiwan in October of 2011. The probe is focused on whether the Chinese Culture University or the Taiwanese government was the official sponsor of the trip. Roskam would be in violation of the rules if a foreign government funded the trip.

In conversations with OCE investigators, Roskam said that initially he “did not recall any discussion about the sponsor of the proposed trips.” He later came to understand that there were two sponsors — the government of Taiwan and the Chinese Culture university — but he was unaware that there was any distinction.

According to the OCE report, Roskam appeared to have given his executive assistant significant responsibility to coordinate the trip’s logistics and to ensure that it didn’t run afoul of the ethics rules.

But the OCE concluded that Roskam should have known the trip was being sponsored by the Taiwanese government and not a private university.

Timothy H. Bishop, D-N.Y.

Bishop has been the focus of ethics complaints for allegedly helping secure fireworks permits for a businessman and then promptly asking for a campaign contribution.

“As I have said many times, I welcome a fair-minded review of the facts because I have done nothing wrong,” Bishop said in a statement in July.

See details from this inquiry in the next post.