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Ethics Talking Points Take Campaign Stage

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting Rep. Michael Grimm, posting ads on the Staten Island Ferry about his ethics troubles.

Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) could face tough questions as she tries to unseat Sen. Dean Heller (R), however. The Ethics Committee announced last week that it had received a referral from the OCE about Berkeley but would not take action until after the primary.

Though there are few, if any, active ethics investigations of lawmakers the National Republican Congressional Committee has targeted as vulnerable, that has not prevented moral lapses from becoming political talking points.

Earlier this month, the NRCC launched the website “How Could Tierney Not Know?” that questions how Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) could be unaware his wife was handling the financial affairs of her two brothers, one of whom is awaiting sentencing for operating an offshore gambling scheme.

“It’s certainly going to be a campaign we continue to sustain throughout the course of this Congressional race,” said NRCC spokesman Nat Sillin, who added that the committee views it as a highly competitive race.

Lawmakers have also faced ethics assaults during primaries.

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) went on offense in the weeks leading up to his defeat of primary challenger Scott Beason.

A television advertisement that aired in Bachus’ district referenced an OCE probe of the Financial Services chairman that began after reports questioned trades listed on Bachus’ annual financial disclosure form.

“First it was CBS, then liberal Washington reporters. Now Obama’s Democrat allies want to destroy Spencer Bachus,” the spot’s narrator said.

Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) was ousted after ethics troubles became a talking point in tea party challenger Brad Wenstrup’s campaign. Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) might want to take note. She is facing a Member-vs.-Member primary against Rep. Janice Hahn in a newly drawn Los Angeles-area district and an active Ethics Committee investigation into whether she misused government resources in her bid to hold on to her seat.

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