The House Ethics Committee acts confidentially and typically uses minimalist language to announce whether it is investigating a member of Congress. This makes tracking open cases difficult, but there are 10 cases the committee has previously stated it is reviewing.
The committee has no rules compelling it to make a public announcement that a review has been closed, sometimes resulting in a delay in a case’s resolution coming to light — though members certainly have an interest in publicizing something that reflects well on them.
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The Office of Congressional Ethics also conducts its own reviews and makes recommendations to the committee based on its findings. Many of these cases were recommended by the OCE for further review:
Rep. Vern Buchanan: In 2012, the OCE recommended the committee look further into allegations that the Florida Republican “attempted to influence the testimony of a witness” in a matter before the Federal Election Commission. Buchanan’s former business partner claims Buchanan offered to settle a $2.9 million lawsuit, contingent on the business partner signing an affidavit to the FEC that said the business partner had no knowledge of reimbursements to campaign donors through auto dealerships owned by Buchanan. The business partner allegedly refused to sign, repeatedly, because he said it was not true. On May 9, 2012, the committee announced it would review the matter further.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers: After the OCE finished a report in December 2013 looking at allegations that the GOP’s conference chairwoman used congressional staff and resources for “campaign activities; paid a consultant for official services with funds from political committees; and combined official resources and campaign resources in furtherance of a campaign for House leadership office” from 2010 to 2012, the committee took up the case. It posted its public notice of the review of the allegations against the Washington Republican on March 24, 2014.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin: The Oklahoma Republican is a plumber by trade, and the OCE recommended that the committee review further allegations that he received more than $600,000 in earned outside income in 2013 from plumbing and HVAC companies owned by him or his wife. He also is accused of personally advertising for the businesses. The committee issued a public notice of its review on March 24, 2014.
Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez: After an OCE recommendation, the committee issued a public notice of its review on May 5, 2014 to review further allegations that from 2003 to 2013 the Illinois Democrat paid a former-chief-of-staff-turned-lobbyist $590,000 “to provide services to his congressional office that more closely resembled those provided by an employee or consultant, rather than a contractor.”
Rep. Bobby L. Rush: The Illinois Democrat is alleged to have accepted in-kind contributions from 1993 to 2013 of an estimated $365,040 in rent for a Chicago property he’s occupied in various capacities since he was an alderman on the city council — which may have violated contribution limits and other ethics rules. After the OCE recommended taking a closer look, the committee issued a public notice of its review on Nov. 10, 2014.
Rep. Edward Whitfield: The OCE recommended that the committee further review allegations that from 2011 to 2014 the Kentucky Republican granted special favors or privileges to his wife, who is a registered lobbyist, by permitting her to use his congressional office “to advance and facilitate her lobbying activities and the lobbying activities of her employer.” The committee formed an investigative subcommittee on March 27.
Rep. Robert Pittenger: The North Carolina Republican requested an Ethics investigation on Nov. 12, responding to FBI and IRS investigations into whether his former company, Pittenger Land Investment, transferred money to his congressional campaign in 2012. The committee formed an investigative subcommittee on Nov. 19 but immediately deferred its investigation at the Justice Department’s request.
Rep. Blake Farenthold: A former staffer alleged in December 2014 in a lawsuit that the Texas Republican sexually harassed her, discriminated against her because she was a woman and retaliated against her. The OCE recommended in June that the committee dismiss the allegations, but in September, the committee said, “Due to the ongoing nature of the lawsuit, the Committee has not yet been able to complete its review of the matter and therefore is not in a position to dismiss the matter at this time.” The lawsuit was settled out of court in November.
Rep. Michael M. Honda: The OCE recommended that the committee further review allegations that during the 2012 and 2014 election cycles, the California Democrat used official resources, including staff time, to benefit his campaigns. The committee issued a public notice of its review on Sept. 3.
Rep. Chaka Fattah: The committee launched an investigative subcommittee following a 29-count indictment filed against the Pennsylvania Democrat on July 29. He was indicted on criminal charges of conspiracy, racketeering, bribery, fraud, falsification of records, making false statements and money laundering.
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