The House Ethics Committee today confirmed that it is looking into possible ethics violations by Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Don Young (R-Alaska).
In a statement released by Chairman Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and ranking member Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), the committee said the independent Office of Congressional Ethics had referred the matters for review on Oct. 13. The committee must release the OCE’s findings after 45 days or issue a public statement that it is extending consideration of the matter for another 45-day period.
“The Committee notes that the mere fact of a referral or extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee,” the release read.
Though the statement did not detail the charges that the lawmakers face, Young’s office confirmed that the inquiry relates to donations made to his legal defense fund. Hastings office did not respond to a request for comment, but the inquiry is likely related to a lawsuit filed in March that accused the Florida lawmaker of unwelcome sexual advances and subsequent retaliation against a staffer when he chaired the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“The statement issued by the Ethics Committee comes as no surprise to Congressman Young. The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) initiated an inquiry earlier this year to determine if donations made to the Don Young Legal Defense Fund in early 2011, exceeded the contribution limit. The Congressman has cooperated with their inquiry,” read a statement issued by Young’s office.
Young’s legal defense fund was set up to pay for legal fees related to Department of Justice investigations into whether the Alaska Republican had accepted bribes from a constituent company and whether he had inserted a lucrative earmark into a transportation bill that benefited a campaign contributor. Young’s office announced in August 2010 that the DOJ had concluded its investigation and declined to pursue the matter in court.
“Considering the hell Congressman Young has gone through over the past five years, he would not knowingly do anything that would violate House rules,” a spokesman said.
Young in July asked the Ethics Committee to clarify whether multiple companies owned by the same individual could legally donate to his legal defense fund. In September, he provided a written statement to the Office of Congressional Ethics related to the 12 contributions on which he had already asked the Ethics Committee for guidance.
“Congressman Young has been proactive in pursuing a resolution to this issue,” a statement issued by his spokesman said.
The committee now has until Jan. 11 to decide whether it will empanel a subcommittee to formally investigate the allegations against Hastings and Young. At that point, if a subcommittee is not formed, the contents of the OCE report will be released.