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The House Ethics Committee announced Wednesday that it would continue reviewing cases it received from an outside ethics office concerning Reps. Bill Owens, D-N.Y., and Aaron Schock, R-Ill., but said it would do so without forming a formal investigative subcommittee.
The committee will examine a trip to Taiwan that Owens and his wife took in December of 2011 at the invitation of the Chinese Culture University in Taiwan and whether it was in fact arranged or paid for by lobbyists for the country’s government at Park Strategies, a firm founded by former Republican Sen. Alfonse M. D’Amato of New York. Lobbyists are prohibited from arranging and financing most forms of lengthy congressional travel.
In the Schock case, the Ethics Committee will examine whether Shock’s request that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., contribute $25,000 to the anti-incumbent super PAC Campaign for Primary Accountability to support then-Illinois Republican House candidate Adam Kinzinger was a possible violation of campaign finance law. Kinzinger won his race.
Wednesday’s announcement was triggered by a public disclosure mechanism in the ethics review process that requires the committee to make public statements after it receives a case from the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. A report the office prepared on each of the two lawmakers was also released.
In the months since details of Owens’ Taiwan trip were first reported by ProPublica, the New York Democrat has said he acted in good faith, the money has been repaid and his staff has received training about proper travel procedures. The independent ethics office’s report on the matter, however, suggests that Owens was aware of Park Strategies’ role in planning the trip on behalf of the Taiwanese government before the plane took off.
Citing interviews, emails and other documents, ethics investigators with the office detail how the trip to Taiwan was first pitched to Owens by the country’s government via Park Strategies as one that would be appropriate under the “Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act.” When it became clear that such trips don’t allow family members, Owens’ office asked the House Ethics Committee for guidance on whether a “friend and business associate could pay for his wife’s travel expenses,” the report said.
When the idea was nixed, Park Strategies and its client, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, began searching for a private sponsor. “I need your kind help here in order to find a proper sponsor in the coming days!” read one email from a Taipei office representative to an Owens staffer.