The Office of Congressional Ethics has ended its investigation of Rep. John Murtha’s ties to now-defunct lobbying firm PMA Group, recommending against a further inquiry by the House ethics panel, which is also investigating Murtha.
The development was first reported by Roll Call. We laid out the charges in the PMA matter, including allegations that members of Congress exchanged earmarks for PMA’s clients for campaign donations, in this post.
The Office of Congressional Ethics, which is made up of private citizens, makes recommendations to the ethics committee about whether further review of a given matter is needed.
The ethics committee is already conducting its own probe of Murtha, and the Justice Department is reportedly investigating PMA as well. But the action by OCE has to come as a relief to the veteran defense appropriator.
The OCE also recommended no further review of Reps. Norm Dicks (D-WA) and Jim Moran (D-VA). Roll Call lays out what will happen next:
Although the OCE did not recommended further review of Murtha and Dicks, the ethics committee could nonetheless opt to continue its own investigation or to pursue information provided by the OCE.
Under ethics committee rules, the panel has up to 90 days — a mandatory 45-day period and an optional 45-day extension — to review the OCE’s recommendation.
In most circumstances, the panel must release the OCE’s report at the end of its review, unless it opts to open a formal investigation. In the event that the OCE recommends an investigation for dismissal, however, the ethics committee is not required to publicize the OCE’s report if it likewise votes to dismiss the matter. If the ethics committee disagrees and votes to pursue the investigation, it must ultimately release the OCE’s report.