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Ethics Clears Schmidt, Continues Probe of Meeks

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The House Ethics Committee announced Friday that it has cleared Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) of allegations that she knowingly received improper legal assistance from a Turkish-American interest group.

“I welcome the news,” Schmidt said in a statement. “The report vindicates what I have been saying all along: I have worked cooperatively with the Committee to ensure that I pay these bills in an ethical way. I hope this will be the end of a sideshow created by my political opponents.”

At the same time, the panel said it would continue its investigation of Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), who allegedly failed to disclose a payment he received in 2007.

The committee concluded that although Schmidt received an improper gift when lawyers funded by the Turkish Coalition of America provided about $500,000 in legal services from 2008 to 2010, she was not aware TCA in fact paid those lawyers who claimed to be acting as the Turkish-American Legal Defense Fund.

The Ethics panel issued no punishment, but it will require Schmidt to repay the lawyers for all expenses to date from a “permissible source,” amend her 2009 and 2010 personal financial disclosure forms to reflect the gift and report any unpaid legal fees as liabilities on future disclosure forms until the lawyers are fully compensated.

The committee also issued a letter on Friday reprimanding House staffer Michael Collins for failing to report on his financial disclosure forms and income tax returns $54,000 in outside income he received for campaign work. Collins is the chief of staff to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).

The panel cleared a second aide, Greg Hill, of ethics violations relating to receiving excess outside compensation. Hill is the chief of staff for Ethics panel member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas).

Correction: Aug. 5, 2011

An earlier version of this story misstated the years during which Rep. Jean Schmidt received the legal services in question. The time period was from 2008 to 2010.

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