The House Ethics Committee on Friday afternoon confirmed that it is looking into possible ethics violations by Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) and two House staffers.
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 May 18. 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.
In February, an attorney representing Schmidt confirmed that the OCE was investigating the Congresswoman’s receipt of legal assistance from a Turkish-American interest group. A Democratic challenger, David Krikorian, filed multiple complaints against Schmidt with the OCE alleging that the legal services were provided for free and violated House ethics rules.
It is not clear whether the OCE’s investigation and the resulting Ethics Committee inquiry stemmed from Krikorian’s complaints.
The New York Post reported in January that Meeks repeatedly omitted information from his annual financial disclosure forms, including that his spouse received income from a public relations and advocacy firm and the City University of New York’s Queens College. Members are required to disclose the source of spousal income if it exceeds $1,000 in a calendar year but not the amount.
In a statement issued by his office Friday, Meeks said: "I'm pleased that the Ethics Committee went on record to say that the mere fact of the OCE referral does not suggest that any violation occurred. I am confident the Committee will find that the OCE referral merits no further review. I will respect the Committee's process and withhold my comments until it completes its work."
Schmidt's offie did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The committee also acknowledged it is reviewing allegations against two staffers named Michael Collins and Greg Hill.
Hill is the chief of staff for Ethics panel member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas). McCaul spokesman Mike Rosen said: “This is a payroll issue. Mr. Hill believes he has corrected it, and he is fully cooperating with the committee.”
Collins is the chief of staff to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). A Lewis spokeswoman said the matter relates to Collins' financial disclosure and that he is cooperating with the committee to satisfy its requests.
The committee will announce by Aug. 16 whether it will proceed with formal investigations. If the OCE report recommended further action against the Members, the findings of the report will be released at that time unless an investigative subcommittee is formed.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.