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Ethics Panel Investigates Waters, Graves and Jackson

Updated: 12:05 p.m.The House ethics committee revealed Wednesday it is investigating allegations involving three lawmakers in unrelated incidents.The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, commonly known as the ethics panel, issued separate statements Wednesday identifying inquiries into Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.).A statement issued by the ethics committee said each of the investigations is ongoing, but the panel will defer its efforts in Jackson’s case in light of an ongoing Justice Department inquiry.Each of the investigations was referred to the ethics committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics, although the ethics panel noted in its statement that it had previously begun its own investigation into Jackson.Although the committee did not detail what allegations it is investigating with regard to Graves, the Missouri lawmaker issued a statement Wednesday referring to allegations about testimony before the Small Business Committee.In March, Roll Call reported that the Congressman invited his friend and neighbor Brooks Hurst to testify before a Congressional hearing on renewable fuels, without mentioning that his wife and Hurst are investors together in renewable fuels plants in Missouri.“I look forward to a quick review of the facts and answering any questions that the Committee may have,” Graves said in the statement issued Wednesday. “I believe that a speedy review will show that all the rules of the House concerning testimony in front of the Small Business Committee were followed.”Graves is the ranking member on the Small Business Committee, which held the March 4 hearing on “The State of the Renewable Fuels Industry in the Current Economy.”At that hearing, Graves introduced Hurst as a farmer from northwest Missouri and added that Hurst’s family “is very active in biodiesel and ethanol production.”Hurst added, “I’m also a member and investor in a small ethanol plant in the town of Craig.”The only ethanol plant in Craig, Mo., is the Golden Triangle Energy Cooperative.Graves’ financial disclosure forms indicate that his wife’s investment in Golden Triangle produced $15,001 to $50,000 in income in 2006 and $5,000 to $15,000 in 2007 and 2008. That investment was originally listed on Graves’ disclosure forms as being a joint asset that he shared with his wife.Hurst told Roll Call in 2007 that in 2005 he also recruited “the Graves family” to become original investors with him in a biodiesel plant in Mexico, Mo. In 2007, that investment earned Lesley Graves $1,000 to $2,500 in income, but only $200 to $1000 in 2008, according to Graves’ disclosure forms.According to the committee’s statement, dated Sept. 15, the ethics committee received a recommendation from the OCE to investigate Graves, despite the fact that OCE had found no evidence that Graves had broken any rules.The OCE is the quasi-independent body created by the House in early 2008 to review and recommend probes of possible ethics violations to the committee.The OCE employs a two-stage review process before determining whether to recommend an investigation to the full committee.Once the OCE submits a recommendation for review to the ethics panel, the committee has 45 days before it must publicize the OCE’s report and recommendations. The committee may extend that period by an additional 45 days — and voted Tuesday to do so in both the Waters and Graves investigations — but it must make that decision public, as it did Wednesday.

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