Rep. Spencer Bachus established a trust account earlier this week to pay for his legal fees, indicating that the Alabama Republican is preparing for what could be a protracted ethics probe.
A front-page story in last week’s Washington Post said the independent Office of Congressional Ethics was investigating the House Financial Services chairman for possible violations of existing insider-trading laws and House rules.
Bachus filed paperwork on Feb. 14 to establish the Spencer T. Bachus Legal Expense Trust to help defray the legal expenses associated with the probe.
“I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight. I respect the Congressional ethics process. I have fully abided by the rules governing Members of Congress and look forward to the full exoneration this process will provide,” Bachus said last week in a statement provided by spokesman Tim Johnson.
In a statement, Bachus said he has "incurred considerable legal expenses" because of the investigation.
"The most important point to understand is that I did not violate any insider trading laws or ethics rules," he said. "I am cooperating fully with the Office of Congressional Ethics, despite the fact that news of the investigation was improperly leaked for obvious political purposes."
House rules allow Members to set up a separate fund to pay for “legal expenses that arise in connection with the individual’s candidacy for or election to federal office, the individual’s official duties or position in Congress, a criminal prosecution or a civil matter bearing on the individual’s reputation or fitness for office.”
Individuals, corporations, unions and political action committees — but not registered lobbyists nor foreign agents — are allowed to donate up to $5,000 during a calendar year to the trust.
The Federal Election Commission also allows lawmakers to pay for some legal expenses out of their re-election campaign accounts if certain criteria are met. The Bachus for Congress committee had more than $1 million in cash on hand at the end of 2011, according to FEC filings.
The legal trust will now file a quarterly report with the Ethics Committee that accounts for contributors who give at least $250, any donations received from corporations and labor unions and expenditures exceeding $250. The first report for the Spencer T. Bachus Legal Expense Trust is due on April 30.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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