Ethics Office Refers 3 Cases to House

By Jake Sherman
|  Wednesday, Sep 1, 2010  |  Updated 7:45 AM EDT
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Ethics Office Refers 3 Cases to House

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The Office of Congressional Ethics has asked the House ethics committee to investigate Reps. Tom Price (R-Ga.), John Campbell (R-Calif.) and Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) in relation to fundraising events with financial services firms that coincided with the congressional debate over financial reform.

All three say they have done nothing wrong, and two questioned the reason for the Office of Congressional Ethics investigation. OCE is an outside, independent body, while the House ethics committee is the formal panel that has the power to investigate and punish members of Congress.

OCE, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) created in 2008, has the power to investigate matters of ethics and refer them to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, which determines whether lawmakers broke House rules and can take disciplinary action. OCE, which has been under fire from lawmakers — especially the Congressional Black Caucus — faces an uncertain future in the next Congress. Pelosi has said the House would review its rules package next year if necessary.

Under OCE rules, at least four of six board members have to find “substantial reason to believe” that a member has violated House rules in order to send a referral to the ethics committee. The board is made up of people outside of Congress — it is chaired by former Reps. David Skaggs (D-Colo.) and Porter Goss (R-Fla.). The window for OCE to refer cases to the ethics committee is rapidly closing. Under House rules, the ethics committee will not be able to take up any referrals from OCE after Friday.

Price, in a statement, said he has “always complied with the letter and spirit of the law,” noting that he always opposed the financial services legislation. A spokeswoman for Crowley said OCE informed his office that the matter was forwarded to the ethics committee and that he has always followed fundraising and ethics laws. Campbell, in a statement, said he is “perplexed” by the committee’s decision, “as they have presented no evidence that would suggest wrongdoing.”

Price and Crowley are both influential in their party — Price is the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, and Crowley is a chief deputy whip and vice chairman of finance for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

John Bresnahan and Jonathan Allen contributed to this report.

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