House Ethics Committee Appears More Interested in Exonerating Members than Investigating Them

    Media Contact
  • Dale Eisman

The House Ethics Committee on Friday quietly closed its investigation into the case involving the Paul Magliocchetti and Associates Group (PMA) by dismissing all charges against the seven lawmakers accused of trading earmarks for campaign contributions from PMA clients. The Committee found “no evidence that Members or their official staff considered campaign contributions as a factor when requesting earmarks.”

This is appalling for a number of reasons.

  • First, the Ethics Committee ignored the recommendation of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to further investigate two of the seven Members who were cleared. They are Reps. Peter Visclosky (D-IN) and Todd Tiahrt (R-KS).
  • Reps. Visclosky and Tiahrt refused to fully cooperate with the OCE, which lacks the subpoena power enjoyed by the Ethics Committee, and the Ethics Committee apparently never subpoenaed them to learn more.
  • Despite the fact that this was a national, high-profile case involving seven members of Congress, and the OCE found “probable cause” for further investigation of two members, the Ethics Committee did not appear to take the case too seriously. The panel apparently never established an investigative subcommittee to look into the matter.

“The House Ethics Committee appears more interested in exonerating members of Congress than investigating them,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “It’s no wonder the public has little faith in Congress these days.”

“This is another reminder of how critical it is to have an independent monitor of internal ethics questions in the House,” Edgar said. “It appears the Ethics Committee is too willing to defer to their colleagues in spite of credible evidence of possible misconduct.”