The House Ethics Committee announced today that it will continue investigating whether Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) misused campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, but it will do so without forming a formal investigative subcommittee.
In April, the committee began reviewing whether Andrews used money from his Congressional campaign and a leadership PAC to pay for a family trip to Scotland, to fly his daughter to Los Angeles because of her interest in the entertainment business and to pay for her high school graduation party. The case started in the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, which voted in March to send the matter to the House Ethics Committee for further review.
The committee's decision to continue reviewing the case informally was accompanied by a 244-page report and exhibits that detail the office's findings. The release was triggered by a mandatory disclosure provision in the ethics review process that gives the committee 90 days in most cases to either empanel an investigative subcommittee or release the office's findings.
"The Committee notes that the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgement on behalf of the Committee," Ethics Chairman Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and ranking member Linda SÃ¡nchez (D-Calif.) said in a joint statement.
Andrews said in a statement that he is confident the committee will eventually exonerate him of wrongdoing.
"As the Ethics Committee stated today, it has reached no conclusion on this matter. As the Committee continues its review, the record will show that I have followed all rules and met all standards of the House," the statement read.
The bulk of the OCE report focuses on a trip that Andrews took with his wife and two daughters to attend a wedding in Edinburgh, Scotland, followed by a visit to London.
The wedding involved an individual whom Andrews met while working on a presidential campaign in 2003. Several years later, the individual "informally advised" Andrews on topics such as "electoral strategy, communications strategy and opposition research" but spent no more than 50 hours doing so in a three to four month period. In the years since, the two have communicated a "couple dozen" times and their interactions were personal in nature, according to the OCE report.
Even though the two had not interacted professionally in any capacity for several years, the Andrews for Congress or the Committee to Strengthen America campaign accounts either directly paid for or were later used to reimburse the cost of four business class tickets that totaled $16,574.88, a hotel bill of $7,725.66 at the five-star luxury resort The Balmoral, a $462.98 wedding gift and $2,610 in "petty cash" for on-the-ground expenses in the United Kingdom.
The Andrews family repaid the two campaign accounts for the expenses after reports of the trip surfaced in the media.