Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Congressional Ethics Inquiries Helped Sweep Some Lawmakers Out of Office

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
In California, Richardson, above, faced an uphill battle to best Hahn in a Democrat-on-Democrat race in a new Los Angeles-area district.

Open cases involving other incumbents, including those of Reps. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., D-Ill., and Robert Andrews, D-N.J., didn’t seem to factor in their re-election bids.

The committee for several years has been reviewing allegations that Jackson offered to raise money for former Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for being appointed to a vacant Senate seat. Despite that, he easily won re-election in his Chicago-area district. Jackson has been absent from Congress and the campaign trail since June due to treatment at the Mayo Clinic for bipolar disorder.

News reports surfaced almost immediately after the election that Jackson is in the midst of negotiating a plea deal with the Justice Department in an unrelated case about the misuse of campaign funds for personal expenses. If, as part of that deal, Jackson leaves Congress, any ongoing ethics probes would likely end.

Andrews also cruised through his re-election bid despite a inquiry into whether he used his congressional campaign and leadership PAC to pay for family trips and a high school graduation party. The committee announced in August that it would continue reviewing the case, which originated in the OCE, but would do so without forming a formal investigative subcommittee. The OCE report on the case was released along with the announcement.

Andrews said at the time of the committee’s announcement that its decision to keep the matter open did not indicate wrongdoing and expressed confidence he would be exonerated.

Ethics observers say even when investigations are cut short by election losses or departures, the automatic release of the OCE reports provide insight into the process.

“We wouldn’t even have heard of many of these cases. The public element of OCE is its muscle,” said Craig Holman of the watchdog group Public Citizen.

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