Nothing to see here, folks!
That’s the takeaway of the House Ethics Committee’s 616-page report on fundraisers targeting financial industry lobbyists held by members of the House around the time the legislative body was voting on an overhaul of financial regulation in December of 2009.
Despite the recommendations of the more independent Office of Congressional Ethics, the House Ethics Committee wouldn’t be looking into whether events geared towards financial lobbyists held by three members of Congress had the appearance of impropriety.
OCE recommended that the House Ethics Committee further probe whether Reps. John Campbell (R-CA), Tom Price (R-GA), and Joseph Crowley (D-NY) did anything wrong when they raised funds from financial lobbyists around the time of the House vote, according to reports they posted on their website Wednesday.
But the House Ethics Committee, chaired by Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL), released a report late Wednesday which essentially said there was nothing to worry about. Their 616-page report claims that “an independent investigation of the relevant facts and surrounding circumstances in all three matters demonstrated that each Member’s fundraising activities raised no appearances of impropriety.”
In fact, the investigation says that such fundraisers “exhibited no appearances of special access for attendees to the Members in their official capacity” and were “no different than any routine fundraising event held by any other House Member.”
All in all, seven members had their cases dismissed by the House Ethics Committee today. Four had been expected, as the Office of Congressional Ethics didn’t think any other action was necessary in the cases of Reps. Melvin Watt (D-NC), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Christopher Lee (R-NY).
But OCE thought Campbell, Price and Crowley were more overt in their attempts to pad their coffers with financial industry cash and recommended a further probe.
The Ethics Committee didn’t agree. Much of their report focuses on whether their actions met the so-called “DeLay standard” — whether their shilling gave an appearance of impropriety that reached the standard set by DeLay.
“Unlike in the DeLay matter, however, none of the three Members occupied such a senior leadership position,” the report claims. “Their input during the legislative process was typical of that with regard to any Member regarding major legislation.” (Further excerpts on the DeLay standard here).
Don’t tell that to Campbell, Price and Crowley. The two Republicans were both members of the Financial Services Committee, while the Democrat Crowley headed up the influential New Democrat Coalition.
Price and Crowley’s offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Campbell said he was glad the matter wrapped up.
“Since the beginning of this matter, I have consistently maintained that there has been no wrongdoing, and I have always expected a favorable outcome,” Campbell said in a statement sent to TPM. “Today, the House Ethics Committee has confirmed this to be true, and I am pleased that the matter has been concluded.”
Additional reporting by Melissa Jeltsen, Meena Rupani and Alex Sciuto. The OCE reports referring Campbell, Price and Crowley to the Ethics Committee are embedded below.