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Congressional Ethics Office Refers Four Cases to House Committee

With members leaving or feds investigating, most cases likely to not proceed

The Office of Congressional Ethics referred four cases to the House Ethics Committee last quarter. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
The Office of Congressional Ethics referred four cases to the House Ethics Committee last quarter. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Office of Congressional Ethics sent four referrals to the House Ethics committee for further review in the third quarter of 2018, according to a report released Thursday.

Although the report did not name names associated with the referrals, the Ethics Committee has announced actions on OCE referrals concerning current members between July and September.

In early September, the Ethics Committee announced it was reviewing a referral from the OCE about allegations that Republican Rep. Rod Blum violated House ethics rules by failing to disclose his ownership role in a new company and that his top federal staffer was featured in a false testimonial promoting the company’s services. The panel has until Dec. 17 to announce whether it will impanel an investigative subcommittee or dismiss the matter. Blum was defeated earlier this week in Iowa’s 1st District by Democrat Abby Finkenauer.

The Ethics Committee began reviewing allegations against Rep. Tom Garrett on June 8 and received a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics on Sept. 5. The Virginia Republican freshman, who did not seek re-election, faces allegations that he used his congressional aides to run personal errands for him and his wife on taxpayer-funded official time. He’s also been plagued by questions about whether his alcohol use has affected his work in Congress. The panel will announce its course of action on or before Dec. 4.

In both the Garrett and Blum cases, it’s unlikely that the House Ethics Committee would assemble an investigative subcommittee on members who have only a few weeks left in office. 

The House Ethics Committee voted in September to impanel investigative subcommittees to examine Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins, who both face federal indictments. But neither panel plans to conduct work on the investigation at this time, deferring to the Justice Department for now. The DOJ, which brought forth the charges and is leading prosecution efforts against both lawmakers, has asked the Ethics Committee to defer action on both matters, and it has agreed to do so.

Between January and September 2018, the Office of Congressional Ethics  transmitted 12 cases to the House Ethics Committee for further review and two cases for dismissal.

Approximately 2,700 private citizens contacted the Office of Congressional Ethics during the second quarter, down from 8,300 in the second quarter of 2018, according to the OCE’s most recent quarterly report. The contacts fall into two categories: allegations of misconduct and requests for information about the OCE.

Watch: With the Midterms Over, Get Ready for Investigation Nation and Congressional Gridlock

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